Why Do My Toes Crack When I Curl Them?

The sound of your toe cracking when you curl it is completely natural, and you don’t have to worry about it. Different people may crack toes for various reasons. It could be just out of habit or even a coping mechanism for stressful situations. Either way, you can stop by being more mindful and self-conscious to stop yourself whenever you get the urge. If this is just randomly happening to your body, the most likely cause is the condition known as arthritis which can also happen to your toe or any body part that has joints. You can, of course, treat yourself through medication, physical therapy, or even by adjusting your meals.

An odd unexplainable habit that most of us have is cracking joints, whether it’s the knuckles, neck, back, hands, or in this case, even toes. The sound of hearing it go ‘pop’ is almost comforting to us as we curl our toes.

While doing so doesn’t really pose any kind of threat to our toes or feet, there are instances where it’s quite hard to distinguish whether it’s occurring naturally or in an unusual way.

Since your toes play a critical role in maintaining the balance in your body, it’s best to understand how this cracking happens and how to identify if it’s happening abnormally.

Is it normal for your toes to crack? Is cracking your toes not good for you? Why do people get the urge to crack toes, and how can you get rid of this urge?

What are the causes of unintentional cracking of toes? What is toe arthritis, and how can you diagnose yourself? Can you treat your arthritis at home itself?

Is it normal for your toes to crack and is it bad to do it?

The cracking of toes when you curl them is very similar to the process of cracking your knuckles.

In reality, the noise of cracking is nitrogen bubbles bursting in the synovial fluid which lubricates our joints, as confirmed by a 2015 study. This fluid is what minimizes friction when we use our joints to preserve our cartilage.

While there isn’t much scientific and medical research on the impact of cracking knuckles or toes, the few experiments conducted show that cracking doesn’t harm our joints at all and definitely doesn’t cause arthritis in the long run.

Why do people crack their toes and how you can stop it?

A 2011 study by The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine reveals that approximately 54% of people crack their knuckles. Even toe cracking is popular among such people.

Although its a very common occurrence, the reasons that people get into this behavior might depend from person to person. The most famous reasons and methods of preventing them are given in the following table.

Why do people crack their toes intentionallyHow to stop yourself from cracking toes
Out of habit – once you start, you’re in it for life.Wear some sort of rubber band on your wrist and snap it when you feel the urge to crack your toes.
Stressful – Stress can easily make you start cracking your knuckles and toes as a mode of distracting yourself.Try to occupy yourself with stress-relieving activities like meditation or exercise.
Nervousness – Different people have different coping mechanisms.It’s best to have a stress ball in your hand so that you can take your nerves out on it.
The crack noise – Many just like hearing the sound that it emits.Stay mindful and forcefully stop yourself from doing it.
How it feels – Some people think that cracking your toes has a fulfilling sensation.Think about why you crack your toes and motivate yourself to get out of the bad habit.
Toe Cracking


As long as you’re intentionally cracking your toes, there’s nothing to really worry about health-wise, apart from it being considered to be a ‘bad habit.’

However, a problem comes up if your toe cracking happens unintentionally without curling your feet.

What are the causes of unintentional toe cracking?

There are 2 main plausible causes for unintentional toe cracking, which we will be discussing in-depth now.

  1. After experiencing an injury – Toe cracking will be a more serious complication than you initially thought if you have an old injury since it could mean that the injury has been re-aggravated. You will definitely know if this was the case since the cracking will be followed by pain and swelling symptoms. In such instances, it could mean that your toe is broken and you’ll need to head to the hospital and get an X-ray.
  2. Arthritis – This refers to the tenderness and swelling of your joints which usually grows from bad to worse as you grow older. Arthritis refers to a wide variety of joint disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis. Most of the common symptoms for these diseases are pain, swelling, incapacity to move your toes as you used to, and stiffness.

What is toe arthritis and how to know if you have it?

In case you weren’t aware, arthritis can specifically attack the joints of your toes as well. Toe arthritis is mainly caused due to toe joint inflammation. While this is well known to attack your big toe, others can be affected sometimes as well.

Apart from the symptoms mentioned above, you can also diagnose yourself by the sheer appearance of your toe in question. If it seems larger than normal, or if it’s leaning away from your foot, it could be a symptom of this condition.

When you touch your toe area, if you sense a certain warmth and redness or if the toe joint seems to be locked in, making it difficult to move your toe about, the chances are that your arthritis has progressed. In such instances, you’ll need medical assistance.

How can I treat arthritis through home remedies?

If you feel like there’s a higher possibility that your toe cracking is a result of arthritis, the first thing you’ll need to do is pay a visit to your local doctor. Upon receiving the proper medication, you can also try out home remedies to treat your arthritis.

  1. Follow a healthy diet – Omega 3 fatty acid supplements found in fatty fish varieties like salmon are proven to be natural pain relievers for arthritis patients through a 2017 study. Garlic, Ginger, Broccoli, and walnuts too are known to be worth including in your diet.
  2. Acupuncture – These ancient Chinese medical treatments are famous for restoring a certain balance in your body and may minimize the pain that you’re suffering. But its validity is in question depending on who you ask
  3. Keep your weight in check – If you’re obese, it’s crucial to take steps in losing weight as soon as possible as it will help you with the pain and prevent any excessive damage to your joints in the future.
  4. Add a dash of turmeric – This simple ingredient can make quite a change due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
  5. Massage therapy – While there isn’t much medical or scientific evidence on this, rest assured it will at least help manage your discomfort even temporarily.

FAQ’s

How can you treat a broken toe?

You’ll find relief in using a cold compress and pain killers for any swelling and pain, and avoid walking about. While broken toes can be healed at home itself with proper care, it’s best to show your toe to a doctor since sometimes a broken toe can end up with infections, arthritis, or long-term foot problems.

Is arthritis curable?

Arthritis doesn’t have a cure so far. However, various treatments are available to manage it and minimize its progressions, such as medicines, lifestyle changes, and even surgery.

Is physical therapy effective against arthritis?

Physical therapy not only improves your strength but also expands your flexibility and mobility. Exercises like cycling, yoga, and swimming are recommended for arthritis patients.

Conclusion

The bottom line is that if you’re curling your toes on purpose, the cracking of your toe is a completely normal reaction. Only if your toe cracking is completely unintentional and constant should you worry about a pre-existing condition of which the cracking is a symptom.

Given that your toes play an important role in bearing the weight of your body when you walk and run, it’s equally important to protect your toes and take necessary medical action if your foot health is declining quite visibly.