“A Pandemic of Broken Toes:” How to Exercise Safely at Home

Recently anews report was released by theWashington Post that was titledAPandemicofBrokenToes.”This was taken from a quote by an orthopedic surgeon namedJohn Keeling, who has seen an influx - an estimated tripling or quadrupling - of broken toe cases during quarantine. While a broken toe isnt a serious medical condition, it can be painful and require medical treatment.

So why have there been so many broken toe cases in quarantine? According to the experts interviewed in the above report, its because were spending more time at home without shoes on, our feet unprotected. This risk is particularly heightened due to the fact that were also now exercising at home too.

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In this article were going to give you some tips to help you exercise safely at home to avoid injuringyourself or breaking your toes! Lets get started.

How do you know if you break a toe?

bruised toe

This is a commonly asked question due to the fact that toe fractures are different to other bone fractures. Forexample if you break your arm, youre going to know about it. Whereas with broken toes,many people are unaware that they have broken it. This is because its likely less painful and noticeable.

That being said, if you drop something heavy on your toe or stub the toe bumping into something, you may experience a searing pain, which may be reflective of a fracture. Some other symptoms include:

  • Swelling
  • Stiffness
  • Bruising
  • Difficulty walking

These symptoms may vary in intensity, but ifyou have experienced trauma to the toe and it continues to hurt past the point of immediate recovery, you may have broken it and require medical attention. If a broken toe isnt given sufficient medical attention, it may not heal completely or improperly,causing long term complications like deformity, arthritis, and reduced mobility or range of motion, potentially requiring surgery or continual medical treatment.

Why are so many people breaking their toes in quarantine?

The Covid-19 pandemic has been affecting the world for more than a year now. As an attempt to minimize the spread of the virus, the United States, countries have implemented mandatory lockdowns. These lockdowns have involved the closing of schools, workplaces, gyms, and social venues, forcing people to spend more time than ever at their homes.

barefoot family

The stay-at-home order has made our day to day lives pretty mundane, without the variety or social interaction that we are used to pre-pandemic. As a solution, people have been communicating via Zoom, subscriptions to entertainment streaming channels like Netflix havesoared, andmore people than ever have been engaging in home workouts.

So how does this relate to broken toes?

As mentioned earlier, the main cause of broken toes is trauma: dropping something on your toeor stubbing it against something hard. As you can imagine, not wearing shoes can increase the damage caused when your toes are exposed to trauma because there is nothing protecting them. Themajority of people (87 percent) dont wear shoes in their homes, and are spending more time in their homes thanever before. The result? A higher likelihood of broken toes.

According to the experts interviewed by theWashington Post, many of the broken toes are happening during home workouts. This might be from dropping a weight on your bare feet, or from jumping too aggressively which can cause injury due to the impact.

How to exercise safely at home during quarantine

Its important to stay healthy and active during quarantine despite gyms and fitness centers being predominantly closed. But you dont want to risk a broken toeor worse! So here are some tips for you to help you exercise safely at home.

  1. Optfor low impact exercise

man cycling

The difference between high and low impact exercise is the rate at which your body hits a hard surface. Forexample sprinting, jumping, and high intensity weighted circuit training are all high impact: your body is hitting the ground or weights hard and fast, which is a great calorie burner but its not so good for your joints.

Low impact exercise involves walking, cycling, swimming, yoga,pilates, elliptical training - forms of exercise that are easy on your joints, improve your heart and lung health, burn calories, and have alower risk of injury.

  1. Wear shoes

shoes and weights

If youre an advocate for no outdoor shoes in the home, we hear you! But it is important toprotect your feetproperly during all types of exercise - whether in your living roomor at the gym!

Wearingshoes that fit correctly protect your feet and ankle, absorbs the shock from impact, stabilizes movements and prevents injuries. This is particularly important if you do high impact training as the impact of your feet hitting the floor will be exacerbated if you are not wearing shoes.

A good tip for quarantine workouts is to have one pair of shoes that are yourindoor workout shoes- these are clean and only used inside the house to prevent bacteria spreading inside.

  1. Declutter your environment

In a small space you are morelikely to bump into things or stub your toes. Oftentimes something as simple as decluttering your environment can help to make your homemore spacious and roomy. Take some inspiration from minimalists by following the90/90 rule: if you havent used an item in the last 90 days, and you wont use it in the next 90, get rid of it!

  1. Warm-up and cooldown

When youre lifting heavy weights in a gym, a warm-up and cooldown seem like an obvious choice because you have just exerted yourself. But at home, many people are forgetting that home workouts are still workouts! They still require a warm-up and cooldown to prevent injury and prepare your body for exercise.


Broken toes can be painful, persistent, and flat out annoying. Protect your feet during exercise bywearing shoes and opting for low impact exercise. Keep up the exercise!

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