Medically Reviewed by Jason B. O’Dell, MD
Once you know that each foot has 26 bones, it’s not difficult to understand that foot fractures are among some of the most common orthopedic injuries.
“The toe bones are called phalanges and the bones between the toes and the ankle are the metatarsals,” says McLeod Orthopedic Specialist Jason O’Dell, MD. “All these bones are designed to work in unison. A break in one cannot only cause pain but can also affect how your foot functions and how you walk.”
Kicking something or stumbling and tripping can lead to a broken foot. Twisting awkwardly or, obviously, if a big object is dropped on your foot might also result in broken foot bones. Children, with their bones and balance still developing, are more likely than adults to break a bone in their foot.
Less serious symptoms include difficulty moving the foot, trouble bearing weight on the foot along with tenderness and pain. The sound or feel of a grinding or snap signals a serious broken foot bone. Broken skin and open wounds – possibly with bone sticking out – are also signs you need to see an Orthopedic Specialist.
Should you walk on a broken foot? Good question. And the answer – as with many things in life – is “it depends.” Can you tolerate some pain? Do your shoes offer good support? Is the broken bone bad enough that it’s out of place? In short, maybe you can. But it won’t be comfortable and you may worsen the condition.
Start first aid immediately by elevating the foot and applying ice. While you’re waiting to see a doctor, take some ibuprofen for pain. If serious symptoms are evident, see an Orthopedic Specialist.
Plan on 4-8 weeks for a broken toe to heal and 6-8 weeks for a metatarsal – one of the longer foot bones – to heal. Even then, your foot may be swollen for several months.
ACTION YOU CAN TAKE
Listen to your Orthopedic Specialist and don’t try to get back on your feet too soon. Return to work or other physical activity too quickly and your risk less-than-ideal healing or reinjuring yourself.
Find an Orthopedic Specialist near you.
Sources include: McLeod Health, American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society, American Association of Family Physicians, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons