A foot fracture is a break in any of the bones in the foot.
The foot is made up of 26 small bones. The tarsus is the name for the 7 bones that make up the hindfoot and the midfoot. The forefoot consists of the 5 metatarsals and the 14 phalanges. There are two phalanges in the big toe and three in each of the remaining toes.
A foot fracture can happen in any foot bone, but metatarsal fractures are the most common.
A foot fracture is caused by trauma to the bone. Trauma includes:
- Severe twists
In addition, when a bone is subjected to repeated stress over a long period of time, small cracks may form in the bone. These are called stress fractures, and certain bones (metatarsals and the talus) in the foot are particularly susceptible to this type of fracture.
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease, condition, or injury.
- Advancing age
- Decreased muscle mass
- Certain congenital bone conditions
- Participating in contact sports
- Certain sports that cause repetitive stress such as running
- Pain, often severe
- Bruising and swelling in the injured area
- Numbness in toes or foot
- Decreased range of motion
- Inability to walk comfortably (although you may be able to walk)
- A lump or visible deformity over the fracture site
The doctor will ask about your symptoms, physical activity, and how the injury occurred, and will examine the injured area. The doctor will order x-rays of the foot to confirm the diagnosis.
Treatment will depend on the severity of the injury. Treatment involves:
- Putting the pieces of the bone back in place, which may require anesthesia and/or surgery
- Keeping the pieces together while the bone heals itself
In a less severe foot fracture, the bones can be realigned without surgery. You may only need crutches and flat-bottom shoes to help protect the fracture. Toes may be splinted together by taping to protect the injured toe.
A more serious fracture may require a splint or cast to hold the bones in place. You will need to use crutches to help you walk.
In certain severe cases, you will need surgery to realign the bones. The doctor may use a small metal plate with screws, screws alone, or pins to hold the bones in place while healing takes place. A cast or splint will be placed on the foot after surgery. You will need to use crutches to help you walk. The doctor will order more x-rays while the bone heals to ensure that the bones have not shifted.
When your doctor decides you are ready, start lower body range-of-motion and strengthening exercises. You may be referred to a physical therapist to assist you with these exercises. Do not return to sports until your foot is fully healed.
Metatarsal bones and the phalanges may heal in 3-6 weeks, but the tarsal bones will take 6-10 weeks to heal.
To prevent foot fractures:
- Always wear well-fitting, supportive athletic shoes when doing physical activity.
- Wear proper shoes for each type of activity to protect your feet.
- Eat a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D.
- Do weight-bearing exercises to build strong bones.
- Build strong muscles to prevent falls and to stay active and agile.