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Foot & Toe Fractures

Asheville Foot & Toe Fracture Treatment

Whether we’re running a marathon, sinking a penalty kick into the net, or just walking across the kitchen, we demand a lot of our feet everyday. It may be no surprise, then, that fractures of the toe and foot are relatively common injuries.

Breaking a bone in your toe or foot can be painful, but for many patients, the worst part is not being able to move around normally, much less participate in sports. The good news is that with the help of an experienced foot and ankle specialist, most foot or toe fractures can successfully heal within just a few months.

What are the most common bones to break in the foot?

Any bone in the foot or toe can break, but some are more susceptible to fracture, based on their size, location or how much stress we place upon them. Typically, a “broken foot” involves a fracture of one of the following:

  • Metatarsals. These are the long, thin bones that run along the foot to each toe. Stress fractures are particularly common in the second and third metatarsals, which do most of the pushing off when you walk or run.
  • Phalanges, or toe bones. If you have a broken toe, you have fractured a phalange–each toe has three phalanges, except for your big toe, which has two.
  • Talus and navicular bones are located in the ankle and midfoot. Most fractures to these bones are stress fractures, due to overuse.
  • Calcaneus, or heel bone. Fractures to the heel bone are also typically stress fractures.

Types of foot fractures

A foot or toe fracture is diagnosed and treated based not only on which bone is broken but how it is broken.

Displaced vs. non-displaced fractures

A displaced fracture occurs when the pieces of bone have partially or completely separated from one another. A bone that has cracked, but not separated, is a non-displaced fracture.

Closed vs. open fractures

A closed fracture can be displaced or non-displaced, but has not broken the skin. An open fracture, also called a compound fracture, occurs when the skin is broken. An open fracture is considered an emergency due to the high risk for infection—get to the nearest ER if you sustain an open fracture.

Stress fractures

Stress fractures occur due to overuse, rather than an acute trauma, and are very common in the feet.  We’ll frequently see stress fractures in runners, soccer players, and other endurance athletes.  They are typically non-displaced fractures, but can become displaced if left untreated.

How do I know if I have broken my foot?

Symptoms of a broken foot or toe depend on the location and severity of the fracture, and may include:

  • Localized pain and tenderness to the touch
  • Swelling and bruising
  • Inability to bear weight
  • Difficulty walking without pain
  • Disfigurement in the toe or foot (indicates a displaced fracture)

It can be difficult to know on your own sometimes whether or not you have a fracture, so if you experience any of these symptoms, you should see an experienced orthopedic doctor who specializes in foot, toe and ankle injuries.

Your doctor will diagnose your injury by performing a physical examination and X-rays. If you have a stress fracture, it likely will not show up on an X-ray. An MRI may be recommended to confirm a diagnosis.

Treatment options for foot and toe fractures

The appropriate treatment for a toe or forefoot fracture depends on the location and severity of the injury.

Broken toe treatment

Broken toes are usually treated with rest, “buddy taping” (the affected toe is taped to the toe next to it for support), and pain management. In some cases, the toe may need to be set by your doctor before it is taped.

Treatment for forefoot (metatarsal) fractures

Treatments for a metatarsal fracture depend on the nature of the injury.

Metatarsal stress fractures typically respond well to relative rest, i.e., limited weight bearing for 1 to 2 months. Depending on your needs, you may need to use a walking boot or crutches for a couple of weeks before gradually resuming normal activities.

If you have broken several bones in your forefoot during an injury, surgery may be required to put the bones back in place and secure them with pins or screws. Unless you have an open fracture, your surgeon may delay surgery until swelling from the injury has gone down.

Avulsion fractures are a specific type of fracture to the 5th metatarsal, in which the tendon pulls a fragment of bone away from the base of the metatarsal. Milder avulsion fractures may be treated by wearing a walking boot for several weeks, while more extensive breaks may require surgery to reattach the bone.

Jones fractures are horizontal cracks in the base of the 5th metatarsal. Because this area has a notoriously poor blood supply and heals slowly, surgery is typically recommended to hold the bone in place during the healing process.

How long does it take for a broken toe or foot bone to heal?

With proper treatment, a broken toe will usually heal in about 4 to 6 weeks, while a metatarsal fracture or stress fracture may take up to 8 weeks. However, everyone heals at a slightly different rate, so it is important to be patient and follow your orthopedic surgeon’s instructions for recovery.

Injured? Our experienced Asheville orthopedic team can help.

If you or a loved one has injured your foot, toe or ankle, our experienced doctors at Carolina Hand & Sports Medicine can help. We’ve helped active kids, professional athletes, and weekend warriors alike in Asheville successfully overcome injury and get back to the activities they enjoy.

Call 828-253-7521 or contact us online now to request an appointment.

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