1. Actually feel bad. That's okay to do. You've hurt someone's feelings and it's okay to feel crappy about that.
2. Don't blame them for their feelings. "I'm sorry YOU FEEL I stepped on your toe" is not an apology. It is condescending and taking the heat off of you and placing the burden on them.
Other variations include:
"I'm sorry you thought I stepped on your toe. In my mind, I barely grazed it."
"People get so easily offended by small things like getting their toes stepped on. There are worse things happening you know!"
"I'm sorry your toe is bleeding but you have NO IDEA how many bloody toes I'VE had."
3. Admit what you did to the person. Validate that you hurt them.
"I'm sorry I stepped on your toe. I can understand that you are hurt."
4. Figure out if there is a way to make the situation better. Get a band aid or an ice pack for their toe. If you're not sure how to make it better, ask the person "how can I make this better?"
5. Perhaps explain the circumstance, but don't make excuses. Instead of "I'm sorry but your big fat toe was in the way" you might try "I'm so sorry, this truly was an accident. I was so hungry that I was running to the kitchen and didn't look where I was going." While excuses are not okay, allowing the person to understand where your coming from is.
6. But don't expect the hurt person to immediately understand you were hungry and running to the kitchen.
7. Don't ask the hurt person to make you feel better! "I hope you don't hate me for stepping on your toe! Because I just can't handle how bad I feel about it. Please, I need you to let me know I'm a good person even though I stepped on your toe!"
The person has a bloody toe because of YOU! Your feelings about the situation are not their responsibility!
8. Try to figure out WHY you did the crappy thing. This should be done with yourself- perhaps before apologizing, but can also be done after. A sincerely sorry person is saddened by what they did and want to make it right.
9. Make a plan on how you aren't going to do that crappy thing again. This can happen in a conversation with yourself, or with the person that's hurt.
10. Be understanding if your hurt friend only wears close-toed shoes around you from now on. He doesn't hate you, he just doesn't quite trust his bare toes around you quite yet, and that's okay.