Key Points about Foot Fractures

  • A foot fracture is a break in one of the 26 bones of the foot.
  • Foot fractures are common, especially in the metatarsal bones of the foot.
  • Types of fractures include acute and stress fractures.
  • Foot fractures are caused by a variety of factors such as increased physical activity, overuse, poor form while exercising, inappropriate footwear, or low bone density.
  • The most common symptom of a foot fracture is pain.
  • Your primary care physician, internist, or orthopedic doctor can diagnose and treat foot fractures.
  • If you suspect you have a foot fracture, it is essential to see your doctor as soon as possible to avoid further damage to the foot.
  • It can take six to eight weeks for a fracture to heal. If the pain intensifies or does not subside, schedule an appointment with your doctor.
Common related conditions
Ankle Fracture (Stress Fracture)

Overview

A foot fracture is a break of one of the bones in the foot. Each foot has 26 bones.

  • The front of the foot, or the forefoot, includes five toes, called phalanges, and five lengthier bones called metatarsals.
  • The five bones of the midfoot -- three cuneiform bones, the cuboid bone, and the navicular bone. Together, these five bones help make up the arch of the foot.
  • Forming the foot and ankle, the hindfoot includes the talus bone, which supports leg bones and the calcaneus bone, which is the heel bone.

There are two types of fractures:

  • Direct blows often cause acute fractures to the foot, toe, or ankle.
  • Stress fractures are smaller hairline breaks, which are caused by overuse.

Foot fractures are prevalent.

Foot fractures have a variety of causes, including overuse, repetitive motion, trauma, such as a fall or direct hit, and low bone density.

Symptoms of a foot fracture vary based on the severity and location of the break.

Pain, tenderness, swelling, and bruising can all be symptoms of foot fractures.

Foot fracture causes

Foot fractures are caused by an injury to the foot. Stress foot fractures are often caused by overuse or an increase in activities such as walking or running. Acute fractures are caused by trauma.

Other causes of foot fractures include:

  • Poor form while exercising
  • Unsupportive footwear
  • Change in surface
  • Activities that require repetitive motions
  • Loss of bone density

Foot fracture symptoms

The most common sign of a foot fracture is pain, often that improves while resting or increases during activity.

Other symptoms of foot fracture include:

  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Bruising
  • Change in appearance of the affected bone

Foot fracture complications

If a foot fracture is left untreated, you could experience:

  • Increased pain
  • A complete break of the bone
  • Chronic pain, or arthritis
  • Deformity of the affected bone and joint

Foot fracture risk factors

There are a variety of factors that can increase your likelihood of developing a foot fracture, including:

  • Age
  • Previous fractures
  • Performing activities that require repetitive movements
  • Suddenly increasing physical activity
  • Weak bones or low bone density

Foot fracture prevention

Although not all foot fractures cannot be prevented, you can avoid some cases by following these guidelines:

  • Wear the recommended and appropriate footwear for each activity, including shoes and braces
  • When starting a new exercise routine, increase the intensity gradually
  • Choose safe, levels surfaces for running or exercise
  • Maintain a healthy diet to help avoid bone loss
  • Vary your physical activities to avoid repetitive motion and overuse
  • Do not continue to exercise on a foot or ankle that is swollen or painful

Foot fracture diagnosis

Your doctor can diagnose a foot fracture. During a clinic visit, your doctor will perform a physical exam and take a full medical history. In some cases, your doctor will order imaging tests such as:

  • X-ray
  • MRI
  • Bone scan

These tests may be able to determine what is causing your pain.

Foot fracture treatment

Your doctor will develop a customized treatment plan for your case.

If your pain is affecting your ability to perform your daily activities, your doctor may recommend a nonsurgical treatment such as:

  • Staying off the affected foot and pausing strenuous exercise is imperative during rehabilitation.
  • Heat and ice. Alternating ice and heat can help relieve pain and make movement easier.
  • Your doctor may recommend wearing a cast, splint or boot to immobilize the foot and ankle
  • Keep your ankle and foot elevated with a pillow when you’re sitting or lying.
  • Physical therapy. Physical therapy is critical, first to reduce pain and swelling and then to increase strength and improve range of motion
  • Keep your ankle and foot elevated with a pillow when you’re sitting or lying.
  • OTC medications. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or naproxen can relieve pain caused by peroneal tendon injuries
  • Reduced activity.

In some cases, foot fractures require surgical treatment. Some surgeries require pins, screws, or plates to hold the bones of the foot and/or ankle in place during rehabilitation. Rehabilitation after surgery often includes physical therapy.

When to Seek Care

Most cases of foot fracture heal with nonsurgical treatments and in-home self-care. If your symptoms such as pain, swelling, tenderness, and inability to perform daily activities, do not go away or if they intensify, call your doctor to schedule an appointment.

Next Steps

Symptoms of foot fractures can be similar to more severe or chronic foot issues. Patients are strongly encouraged to seek a diagnosis and treatment plan from their doctor.

Once diagnosed, your doctor will develop a treatment plan customized for your case. Carefully follow your doctor's instructions and call if your symptoms change or intensify.