I broke my fourth toe (minor fracture). Doctor's orders prevent me from running for about a month. Swimming hurts and is not really an option for a while.

My running base is about 40 kilometers per week.

What is the best way to preserve my running form while the toe heals?

  • Does deep water pool running hurt? Stationary cycling can help you keep up your cardio fitness if you can pedal without it aggravating the toe. Jun 21 '13 at 19:06
  • Water running hurts. Anything exercising pressure on the toe hurts and must be avoided.
    – yannick
    Jun 27 '13 at 9:25

If your doctor has recommended not running for a month, I would suggest not running for a month.

Sure you can exercise now, but it will probably lengthen your recovery time and potentially aggravate your injury further. When in doubt, a doctor who has assessed you the internet. If you want a second opinion, try another doctor or a physiotherapist, but I think you'll find you'll get the same advice.

Four weeks is not long enough for your form to suffer drastically. Additionally, if you run (either track or on an elliptical) with a break in your toe, your body will adjust - even subconcoiusly - to minimise your pain which could lead to muscle imbalances leading to worse form than if you had just rested.

  • I'm ok with not running, but are there ways to exercise that would best minimize the loss in running form?
    – yannick
    Jun 21 '13 at 7:28
  • Even working out on an elliptical is going to put pressure through your toes, slowing healing. If you insist on returning to running, then speak with a sports medicine expert.
    – user2861
    Jun 21 '13 at 7:36
  • 1
    How's your swimming? You could focus on mainly training your legs, which should give you some nice exercise without applying load to your feet.
    – Ivo Flipse
    Jun 21 '13 at 11:08
  • 4
    I broke my heel once. Did the doctor thing of not running for a while - and then went back to it. You will lose nothing important by not running for a month but trying to exercise during that month is more likely to prolong the healing.
    – Sarge
    Jun 21 '13 at 16:10

It won't provide the best results with regard specifically to form, but an elliptical machine will be better than nothing.


You might try an erg like a Concept2 if you have access to the one. My only concern is if you would put too much pressure on the toe during the leg drive phase.

I would agree with the other commenters who mentioned rest. You may find your body recovers in some other ways as well.

  • 1
    This post doesn't seem like a fit answer. Is there a way you can find to elaborate your answer?
    – Freakyuser
    Jun 27 '13 at 5:30

If you have access to a pool, water running can be pretty effective.

Find a pool that is deep enough for you to not touch the bottom, and with a floaty belt (or not, I prefer not), pretend to run, without touching. The key is not to touch the bottom and possibly hurt your toe.

I.e. Make the running motion, arms and legs, through the water. Assuming your toe can take the waters resistance.

You can focus on the muscles used for running and form, (Easier to focus on form with a floaty belt, but better workout without it) but you lose the benefit of impact (which the toe is obviating anyway.

I have found this fairly effective, when injured, that disallows impact on joints.

  • 2
    To the downvoter, he mentions not touching the ground, so unless he splints his toe to avoid bending it, it shouldn't be too risky. Unless these motions require the use of the intrinsic foot muscles (extensors or flexors), which might put strain on the toe regardless. On the other hand, without the resistance of the ground, I don't expect these forces to be of any concern
    – Ivo Flipse
    Jun 22 '13 at 12:32
  • Water running, can put more stress on the muscles than regular running, as the floor of the pool is slipperier that on ground, and more force is required to push forward because of the resistance of the water. For soft tissue injuries training like this could be helpful, but for a bone breaks the force required could definitely inhibit bone knitting.
    – user2861
    Jun 27 '13 at 5:54
  • 2
    @LegoStormtroopr Notice the focus on NOT touching when doing this. I.e. Deep water, water running. I will revise it to indicate I meant Deep water.
    – geoffc
    Jun 27 '13 at 10:39

I bought myself a Stamina inmotion elliptical on Amazon, placed it in front of my TV, and started using it while watching movies. With the resistance set to high, it was quite a workout. My injury has healed long ago, but I still use it instead of long runs whenever it is too hot or too cold to run outside.

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