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This question is more focused on kickboxing since it is the discipline I practice. But it would be of course handy to know for martial arts in general.

I have been training for a bit more than a year and I keep getting my toes injured. I asked my trainer and he said that it's pretty random since sometimes the feet hit the defensive elbow of my opponent etc.. etc..

So concretely I want to know what can I do to prevent future injury, of course you can't avoid it to 100% but there must be something I could do to bring down those chances. (It is horribly painful at least for me)

I have heard about strapping together the toes. Is this effective?

Thanks a lot!!

How my toes where hurt:

  • My little right toe got inflamed and is painful when I touch it or move it, it was when I hit the elbow of my opponent.

  • The big toe on my left foot got hurt once I hit the knee of my opponent and got worse when it got stepped on the same day.

Both toes are relatively ok now, not yet completely healed but I can train effectively. I just want to prevent future injury.

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I'd say this question is not constructive unless you give more info as to how your toes were injured. –  Sean Patrick Floyd Feb 1 '12 at 20:32
    
I am speaking in general. But I stated an example that happened, when I hit the elbow of my opponent I hurt my little toe. –  Joze Feb 1 '12 at 20:37
    
Please absolutely do not cross-post on multiple sites. Right now there is a discussion on meta about narrowing down the injury scope so I could encourage to participate in it. Whatever the outcome, the question can be migrated and merged in either direction. I'm a mod on both Fitness and Martial Arts so I can take care of it on either side. –  Matt Chan Apr 5 '12 at 14:00
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2 Answers

Your little toe incident sounds like a fracture. The big toe may be the same, or just a deep seated hematoma (bruise).

In either case there is very little you can do to prevent this, toes are not really made to collide with solid objects at high speed. Strapping toes together is not particularly productive due to the shortness of the toes, the fact that they are brittle anyway, and the toes need to be able to spread and move on the support foot in order to be able to support you properly during the kick. The golden rule is to keep your toes out of the way1. You should also avoid doing big power kicks (like the roundhouse or leg kick) using the top of your foot, as the bones there are also somewhat brittle - use your shin instead. To achieve this you may have to stand a little closer to your opponent when you deliver the kick.

To treat the injury, find a Chinese apothecary near you and talk to them, they have a variety of treatments for bruises, strains and fractures. One I've used for many years is called Zheng Gu Shui, it is dirt cheap and works by promoting blood flow through the area where it is applied.

Possibly your best option though is conditioning. Have you ever seen pictures/video of the Muay Thai practitioners kicking banana trees? That is done specifically to toughen the bone structure in the shin and foot area. It takes time, lots of time, maybe years to achieve a good result. You might want to consider conditioning your big toe - the way I do it is to extend the big toe, curl the other toes down out of the way and then gently kick the end of the big toe against a solid surface, increasing the power of the kick over time. This hardens the end of the toe and strengthens the two joints in the toe (making the joints less susceptible to bruising).

1Unless using the toe as the weapon (usually the big toe, much like using the fingertip to strike with)

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One way I protect my feet in my classes is I wear shin guards with a foot flap or sleeve. There are full encapsulating feet protectors as well, they basically cover the entire top of the foot, with straps on the bottom allowing your bare foot to come into contact with the ground.

For toe injury, foot space is very important, keep your toes pointed or a basic foot shape during a kick with the top of the foot or a block. Curling your toes and kicking with the ball of the foot for push kicks, horse kicks, etc. It took me quite a while to get my foot shapes correct to where I wasn't banging my toes here and there.

When blocking, or getting block and you hit someones bones, elbows are the worst, there's not much you can do about it. Maintain control, not striking with a lot of force or too fast but striking with intent is all I could recommend.

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