(Broken Foot; Fracture, Foot)
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
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.
Foot fracture is more common in older adults.
Factors that may increase your chance of a foot fracture include:
- 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
You will be asked 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. Crutches may be needed to help you move around while keeping weight off your foot.
Some fractures cause pieces of bone to separate. These pieces will need to be put 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.
The following medications may be advised:
- Over-the-counter pain medication to reduce inflammation and pain
- Prescription pain medication
Check with your doctor before taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen or aspirin.
Note: Aspirin is not recommended for children or teens with a current or recent viral infection. This is because of the risk of Reye syndrome. Ask your doctor which medications are safe for your child.
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.
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Foot fractures and dislocations. Patient UK website. Available at: http://www.patient.co.uk/doctor/Foot-Fractures-and-Dislocations.htm. Updated April 19, 2012. Accessed September 25, 2014.
March fracture. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated April 29, 2014. Accessed September 25, 2014.
Stress fractures of the foot and ankle. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Ortho Info website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00379. Updated July 2009. Accessed September 25, 2014.
Toe and forefoot fractures. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00165. Updated September 2012. Accessed September 25, 2014.
Last reviewed August 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.