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.
A foot fracture is caused by trauma to the bone. Trauma includes:
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.
These factors increase your chance of developing a foot fracture. Tell your doctor if you have any of these risk factors:
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.
Depending on how severe the injury is treatment will involve:
In a less severe foot fracture, the bones can be realigned without surgery. You may only need crutches and stiff-soled shoes to 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. This is to make sure 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:
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society
Canadian Academy of Sport and Exercise Medicine
The Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Broken ankle/broken foot. Mayo Clinic website. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/broken-ankle/DS00951. Updated June 2009. Accessed July 21, 2009.
Foot fractures and dislocations. Patient UK website. Available at: http://www.patient.... Updated October 2007. Accessed June 23, 2008.
Toe and forefoot fractures. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00165. Updated 2001. Accessed June 23, 2008.
Last reviewed September 2012 by John C. Keel, MD
Last Updated: 09/28/2012