How To Tell if Your Foot Is Fractured

“I think I broke my foot!” 

We’ve all said it in our more dramatic moments, soon discovering that, while it hurts, it’s not actually broken.

Sometimes, however, a mild injury turns out to be a hairline fracture. Other times, an obviously traumatic event sends you to the emergency room. It’s important to know what to do if you think you’ve broken your foot and how to treat it if a break is confirmed.

Fractured vs. Broken Foot 

foot fracture

A foot fracture is the medical term for a broken foot. However, the terms “fracture” and “break” are used interchangeably. There are, of course, degrees and types of breaks in the foot — just as in any part of the body — each requiring a different course of treatment.

The number of people suffering from broken bones each year varies. The most recent data shows between 11 and 15 million reported lower limb fractures each year. These fractures include the hip, upper and lower leg, ankle, foot, and toe. Within that, between 66 and 75 percent of these breaks occur in the ankle, foot, and toe.

Foot Fracture 

Foot fractures are caused by a wide variety of accidents ranging from the common to the extreme.

foot fracture
  • Impact injuries: Your foot can get crushed or broken during a car accident or from something as simple as dropping something heavy on it.
  • Falls: Falling or jumping down even a short distance can cause a broken foot.
  • Tripping: A foot fracture can result from a slight misstep on a rocky trail, a trip over a curb or step, or simply getting tripped up by a cord or rug. A painful stub can be enough to break a toe.
  • Excessive use: Breaks called stress fractures can occur in the small bones of the feet due to repetitive force or frequent use. These types of breaks are more common in athletes like runners, basketball players, or gymnasts. 

Children are more likely to suffer from foot fractures than adults. This is due to the relationship between the strength of their ligaments and tendons compared to that of their bones. The ligaments and tendons are stronger in children’s feet than their bones. In adults, the bones are stronger than the ligaments and tendons. The elderly are at increased risk of foot fractures due to their increased frequency of osteoporosis. 

Foot Fracture Symptoms

Common foot fracture symptoms include pain, swelling, bruising, and sometimes visible deformity.

Pain from a broken foot is often significant enough that putting pressure on your injured limb dissuades you from walking. With stress fractures, however, the pain may be intermittent at first and worsen with time. 

Bruising and swelling can occur with a broken foot, though they’re not always present. Other injuries, such as sprains, can also cause bruising and swelling. Seek a proper diagnosis of your injury from an orthopedic foot specialist, who can also suggest the proper treatment. 

Foot Fracture Treatment 

The severity of a fractured foot ranges from hairline cracks to injuries so severe the bone protrudes through the skin. With this range in severity comes a range of treatments, including surgery.

It is wise to seek immediate treatment if you suspect you’ve fractured your foot. Go to the emergency room if you have severe pain, the foot is obviously deformed, you have a large wound near the painful area, or if the foot is cold or numb. 

The emergency doctor or your orthopedic foot specialist may need to take an X-ray or use another type of imaging to determine the exact location and severity of the injury. 

How to heal a fractured foot

foot fracture
  • Rest: Rest your foot to support healing and reduce swelling.
  • Ice: Use an ice pack wrapped in a cloth to help ease pain and inflammation. Ice the injured area two to three times a day for 10 to 20 minutes each time.
  • Compression: Reduce swelling by wrapping the injury with an elastic bandage. The wrap should not be so tight as to cause tingling, pain, or swelling around the bandaged area.
  • Elevation: While icing (and any time you are sitting), prop the injured area up on soft pillows. Elevating the injury above your heart will alleviate the swelling.
  • Use a brace or walking cast. As swelling decreases, your foot may fit into a supportive, hard-soled shoe. 
  • If you’ve broken your toe, tape the broken digit to a neighboring toe. Put a cotton ball or other light padding between the tapped toes. 
  • If your break is severe, your orthopedic specialist may need to cast your foot or perform surgery.
  • Your orthopedic specialist may require you to walk with the aid of crutches to avoid putting weight on your injury while the bone heals.

Always work with your orthopedic foot specialist for diagnosis and proper treatment. Because of the different types of breaks possible, it’s integral not to go this one alone. Complications from a broken foot are also possible, such as blood clots, bleeding into the joint or surrounding muscles, or nerve damage.  

Broken bones generally take several weeks to months to fully heal. It generally takes longer to heal as you age. Those who use nicotine in any form also experience delayed healing. 

Prevention

Focusing on prevention methods helps decrease the likelihood of a broken foot. These methods include proper footwear, smart driving choices, and proper nutrition and training. 

Wear job or sport — appropriate footwear — boots with safety toes, non-slip shoes, or properly supportive athletic shoes. 

Remind car passengers it’s unsafe to rest their feet up against the dashboard as an impact injury in that position would be quite serious.  

Strengthen your bones with a healthy diet containing appropriate amounts of calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D. Take proper rest days or cross-train as guided by your foot and ankle specialist to avoid stress fractures. 

If you have questions about your foot pain or foot injury and would like to talk to a specialist, please contact us

16 Comments


Hi
I’ve hit my left foot on the side against a steel bench. It’s I excruciating pain, swollen & I can’t walk. Should I go to the Hospital? It’s slightly deformed.

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My husband got hit by car foot swollen could this mean foot fracture or broken

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    Yvette, swelling after being hit by a car could indicate various issues, including a fracture. It’s crucial to seek immediate medical attention for a proper diagnosis and treatment. Wishing your husband a speedy recovery.

    Reply

    Depends as shown here there are some similarities between the two as said like swelling, bruising, pain, discomfort, and more. Though as a student nursing assistant you should have him get it checked out ASAP.

    Reply

Hi!

A large piece of wood fell on my foot, it was really sore, was red, blue & swollen at the time that it happend. I also experienced obviously a lot of pain & this funny burning sensation.

This morning its still swollen, not as much discoloration, felt better until I started waking, then the pain started again.

Should I be concerned?

Reply

    Hi there, it sounds like you may have experienced a significant injury. Swelling, discoloration, persistent pain, and a burning sensation could indicate various issues. I strongly recommend seeking medical attention as soon as possible. Take care, and I hope you feel better soon!

    Reply

I twisted the side of my foot at work on rocks. My foot hurts bad in one spot we’re it’s swollen. The pain is getting worse in so hard to even walk on it . Could my foot be fractured?

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    Tiffany, unfortunately persistent pain, swelling, and difficulty walking could be signs of a fracture. It’s essential to consult with a orthopedic foot and ankle specialist or podiatrist for a proper diagnosis and treatment. They can provide the necessary guidance based on your specific situation. Take care!

    Reply

Hi, I was moving benches and then a bench dropped on top of my foot, I have pain, bruising, and my foot is swollen. Should I go to the hospital to get it checked out, or wait for it to get seen by my GP.

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    Hi Jillian, based on the symptoms you described (pain, bruising, and swelling), it might be a good idea to seek medical attention to rule out any serious injuries or fractures. If the pain is severe or if you’re unable to bear weight on your foot, consider going to the hospital or an urgent care facility for a prompt evaluation.

    Reply

I fell over my foot yesterday, It’s swelling, a bump under ankle bone, showing deformity and bruising with pain

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    That sounds incredibly painful. Feel free to reach out via phone at 435-615-8822 or our website to schedule an appointment with Dr. Jason Dickerson, our foot and ankle specialist.

    Reply

I dropped a 2kg dumbell on my foot. I’m feeling slight pain at the bottom. Could it be a fracture

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    It’s essential to take any injury seriously, especially when there’s been direct trauma like dropping a weight on your foot. The pain at the bottom of your foot could indeed be indicative of a fracture. It’s best to seek medical attention promptly to get a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. In the meantime, try to apply the R-I-C-E (Rest, Ice, Compress, and Elevate) method to the affected foot.

    Reply

Hi, I dropped a large weight on my foot. There is a large lump on too and redness. Difficulty wiggling toes but can still walk on it with some discomfort. Quite an aching pain. I have quite a high pain tolerance (didn’t realise i tore my Achilles until two days after it happened type high) so am unsure if I have broken anything or just bruised.

Reply

    It sounds like you’ve experienced a significant injury. Based on your description, it’s possible that you may have fractured a bone in your foot or sustained a soft tissue injury. It’s important to seek medical attention promptly to assess the extent of the injury and receive appropriate treatment. A healthcare professional can conduct a physical examination and may recommend imaging studies, such as an X-ray, to determine the nature of the injury. In the meantime, you can try to rest, elevate your foot, and apply ice to help reduce swelling and discomfort.

    Reply

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