Broken Foot (Foot Fractures)

What is a Foot Fracture?

Trauma and repeated stress can cause fractures in the foot. Extreme force is required to fracture the bones in the hindfoot. The most common type of foot fracture is a stress fracture, which occurs when repeated activities produce small cracks in the bones.

Most Common Questions About Foot Fractures

In this video, Dr. Leroy Butler, D.O., Foot and Ankle Specialist at OINT, answers the most common questions his patients have when it comes to foot and ankle fractures, AKA a broken foot or broken ankle.

Types of Foot Fractures

A broken foot can involve different bones and joints and are classified into several types:

  • Calcaneal fractures: This affects the heel bone and occurs mostly because of high-energy collisions. It can cause disabling injuries and if the subtalar joint is involved it is considered a severe fracture.
  • Talar fractures: The talus bone helps to transfer weight and forces across the joint. Talus fractures usually occur at the neck or mid-portion of the talus.
  • Navicular fractures: Navicular fractures are rare and include mostly stress fractures that occur with sports activities, such as running and gymnastics, because of repeated loading on the foot.
  • Lisfranc fractures: This type of fracture occurs due to excessive loading on the foot, which leads to stretching or tearing of the midfoot ligaments.

Symptoms of a Broken Foot

The common symptoms of a foot fracture include pain, bruising, tenderness, swelling, deformity, and inability to bear weight.

Treatment options for Foot Fractures

Treatment depends on the type of fracture sustained.

For mild fractures, non-surgical treatment is advised and includes rest, ice, compression, and elevation of the foot. Your doctor may suggest a splint, boot, or cast to immobilize the foot.

For more severe fractures, surgery will be required to align, reconstruct, or fuse the joints. Bone fragments may be held together with plates and screws. Physical therapy may be recommended to improve the range of motion and strengthen the foot muscles. Weight-bearing, however, should be a gradual process with the help of a cane or walking boot.

When to see an Orthopedic Specialist?

If you suspect that you might have a broken foot, Dr. Leroy Butler recommends:

  1. If unable to bear weight or pulling weight causes severe pain
  2. Continued foot pain after trying the R.I.C.E. method for a couple of days
  3. Feeling of instability or “something is wrong”
  4. Extensive swelling or bruising
  5. If you have an open wound associated with the injury

What happens if Foot Fracture is Left Untreated?

  1. If the fracture involves injury to the joint can cause post-traumatic joint damage.
  2. It may be a type of fracture that can be initially treated nonoperatively but if not treated correctly at the start of the injury, could lead to the displacement of the fracture, and need for surgical correction or alignment.
  3. Some foot fractures can change the alignment of the arch of your foot leading to long term pain or deformity
  4. If left untreated can lead to nonunion of the bone meaning it doesn’t heal
  5. If left untreated can lead to malunion of the bone meaning heals in the wrong position which could cause pain or deformity, and perhaps a bigger surgery to correct the secondary problems.
  6. Wounds and fractures can lead to possible infection of the surrounding tissue or bone.

What is the Normal Anatomy of the Foot?

The foot has 26 bones, and can be divided into 3 parts:

  • The hindfoot is comprised of two bones, the talus bone which connects to the bones of the lower leg, and the calcaneus bone which forms the heel.
  • The midfoot is comprised of the navicular, cuboid, and three cuneiform bones.
  • The forefoot is made up of five metatarsal bones and 14 toe bones called phalanges. The hindfoot is separated from the midfoot by the medio tarsal (transverse tarsal or Chopart’s) joint and the midfoot is separated from the forefoot by the Lisfranc joint. Muscles, tendons, and ligaments support the bones and joints of the feet enabling them to withstand the entire weight of the body while walking, running, and/or jumping.