If your toes turn red, you’ll usually have more symptoms than just discoloration. Causes for red toes include:

Injury

Stubbing or dropping something on your toe could cause enough trauma to turn it red. Other injuries such as the repeated pressure and abrasion of a shoe that doesn’t fit could also result in a red toe. This can cause pain and swelling in addition to redness.

Treatment could include:

  • over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve)
  • immobilization, often by taping to a neighboring toe

Skin infection

When bacteria living on your skin gets into your skin itself, the result can be cellulitis, a common skin infection.

Symptoms in addition to toe redness can include:

Treatment could include:

Irritant contact dermatitis

When your skin comes in contact with certain substances —such as gasoline or detergents like soaps and bleach — it can become inflamed.

Symptoms in addition to toe redness can include:

  • toe and foot pain
  • rough skin

Treatment could include:

  • avoiding contact with the irritating substance
  • moisturizer to relieve inflamed skin

Allergic contact dermatitis

When your skin comes in contact with an allergen — plants such as poison ivy and metals such as nickel — it can become inflamed.

Symptoms in addition to toe redness can include:

Treatment could include:

  • avoiding contact with the allergen
  • moisturizer to relieve inflamed skin

Athlete’s foot

Also known as tinea pedis, athlete’s foot is a fungal infection of your toes or feet.

Symptoms in addition to toe redness can include:

Treatment could include:

  • OTC antifungal sprays or ointments
  • oral antifungal medications such as terbinafine (Lamisil) or itraconazole (Onmel, Sporanox)
  • home remedies

Gout

A form of arthritis, gout can cause redness.

Other symptoms can include:

Treatment involves pain relief and lessening inflammation. These could include:

  • OTC nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for pain such as ibuprofen and naproxen sodium
  • prescription NSAIDs such as indomethacin (Indocin) or celecoxib (Celebrex)
  • colchicine (Colcrys, Mitigare)
  • corticosteroids, such as prednisone (Deltasone, Prednicot) for pain relief and inflammation reduction
  • allopurinol (Aloprim, Zyloprim) or febuxostat (Uloric) to limit the amount of uric acid your body makes
  • probenecid (Probalan) or lesinurad (Zurampic) to improve uric acid removal

Nail infection

Known as paronychia, an infection of your nail folds is typically caused by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria or a fungus and can cause toe pain and swelling.

Treatment could include:

Peripheral vascular disease

Peripheral vascular disease is caused by decreased blood flow to your legs and feet due to clogged arteries (atherosclerosis).

Symptoms can include:

  • toe and foot redness
  • toe and foot itchiness

Treatment could include:

  • lifestyle changes such as starting a regular exercise program and stopping the use of tobacco products
  • cholesterol-lowering medications (statins)
  • high blood pressure medications
  • medications to prevent blood clots, such as aspirin or clopidogrel (Plavix)
  • medications to relieve symptoms, such as cilostazol (Pletal) or pentoxifylline (Trental)
  • surgery such as angioplasty

There are multiple explanations for a toe being red. Some are simple and easy to treat and some more severe. If you have a minor injury such as a stubbed — but not broken — toe, you should be able to treat it at home.

If you’re not sure why your toe’s red and have other symptoms like pain and swelling, see your doctor for a full diagnosis.