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 seven bones that make up the hindfoot and the midfoot. The forefoot consists of the five 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.
Phalanx Fracture of the Foot
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A foot fracture is caused by trauma to the bone. Trauma includes:
- Blows or object falling on the foot
- Severe twists
When a bone is subjected to repeated stress over a long time, small cracks may form. These are called stress fractures. Certain bones (metatarsals and the talus) in the foot are at higher risk for this type of fracture.
Factors that may increase your chance of a foot fracture include:
- Advancing age
- Certain diseases or conditions that result in bone or mineral loss, such as abnormal or absent menstrual cycles, or post- menopause
- Certain diseases and conditions that weaken bones, such as tumors or cysts
- Decreased muscle mass
- Sudden change in activity or exercise program, such as becoming a military recruit
- High-impact or repetitive motion sports, such as gymnastics, basketball, tennis, or running
A foot fracture may cause:
- Pain, often severe
- Bruising and swelling in the injured area
- Numbness in toes or foot
- Decreased range of motion
- Inability to walk comfortably
- A lump or visible deformity over the fracture site
The doctor will ask about your symptoms, physical activity, and how the injury occurred. The injured area will be examined and an x-ray of the foot will be done.
Proper treatment can prevent long-term complications or problems with your foot. Treatment will depend on how serious the fracture is, but may include:
Extra support may be needed to protect, support, and keep your foot in line while it heals. Supportive steps may include a splint, walking boot, stiff-soled shoe. or cast. A crutches may be needed to help you move around while keeping weight off your foot.
Some fractures cause pieces of bone to separate. Your doctor will need to put these pieces back into their proper place. This may be done:
- Without surgery—you will have anesthesia to decrease pain while the doctor moves the pieces back into place
- With surgery—pins, screws, or plates may be needed to reconnect the pieces and hold them in place
Children’s bones are still growing at an area of the bone called the growth plate. If the fracture affected the growth plate, your child may need to see a specialist. Injuries to the growth plate will need to be monitored to make sure the bone can continue to grow as expected.
Prescription or over-the-counter medications may be given to help reduce inflammation and pain.
Medications may include acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
Check with your doctor before taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen or aspirin.
Note: Aspirin is not recommended for children with a current or recent viral infection. Check with your doctor before giving your child aspirin.
Rest and Recovery
Healing time varies by age and your overall health. Children and people in better overall health heal faster. In general, metatarsal bones and the phalanges may heal in 3-6 weeks, but the tarsal bones may take 6-10 weeks to heal..
You will need to adjust your activities while your foot heals, but complete rest is rarely required. Ice and elevating the foot at rest may also be recommended to help with discomfort and swelling.
As you recover, you may be referred to physical therapy or rehabilitation to start range-of-motion and strengthening exercises. Do not return to activities or sports until your doctor gives you permission to do so.
If you have a fractured foot, follow your doctor's instructions.
To help reduce your chance of foot fractures, take these steps:
- Do not put yourself at risk for trauma to the bone.
- Do weight-bearing and strengthening exercises regularly to build strong bones.
- Wear proper padding and safety equipment when participating in sports or activities.
To help reduce falling hazards at work and home, take these steps:
- Clean spills and slippery areas right away
- Remove tripping hazards such as loose cords, rugs, and clutter
- Use non-slip mats in the bathtub and shower
- Install grab bars next to the toilet and in the shower or tub
- Put in handrails on both sides of stairways
- Walk only in well-lit rooms, stairs, and halls
- Keep flashlights on hand in case of a power outage
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Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.