Did you know that your two feet have a combined 52 bones between them? That means one out of every four bones in your entire body resides at ankle level and below.

These tiny bones, which meet at 66 total joints, work together to support your weight, cushion shocks and impacts, maintain your balance, and provide leverage and force to help you run, jump, switch direction, and push off. They’re built tough, but that doesn’t mean they won’t crack, snap, or crunch when exposed to extreme crushing, torque, twisting, or impacts—either in one traumatic incident, or through repetitive force over time.

Types of Foot & Ankle Fractures

Because your feet are such complicated structures with so many bones, a wide variety of foot fractures are possible.

  • Broken toes. Toes usually break after a severe stub or from dropping a heavy object on them. In addition to pain, broken toes can make walking and pushing off very difficult. Contrary to popular belief, broken toes are not untreatable and severe breaks should be addressed immediately.
  • Forefoot / metatarsal fractures. The metatarsals are five long, skinny bones in the front portion of your foot that connect to your toes. Fractures here can severely impair your ability to bear weight or walk comfortably.
  • Lisfranc / midfoot fractures. The Lisfranc joint is located in the middle of your foot, where the long metatarsals connect with the tarsal bones that make up the heel and arch. Lisfranc breaks may produce avulsion fractures (chips of bone pulled off), cause abnormal widening of the foot, and make it hard to bear weight.
  • Heel fractures. Fractures of the heel bone (calcaneus) can be especially debilitating and usually only occur after a high-impact trauma, such as an auto accident or falling from a ladder.
  • Broken ankles. Ankle fractures can actually come in several different forms, depending on the bones affected (tibia, fibula, talus) and the type and specific location of the fracture within the bone itself. Please note that a severe sprain can actually hide an ankle fracture underneath, so it’s best not to take chances with a painful ankle injury.
  • Stress fractures. Rather than being caused by a single traumatic injury, stress fractures are cracks in bone that form in response to repetitive impacts over time, as weary soft tissues structures lose the ability to protect them from shocks. Any bone can develop a stress fracture, though they are especially common in metatarsals.

A Closer Look: Stress Fractures

You’ve all heard the term “cracking under pressure.” It often refers to a mental condition where stress causes us to lose focus and underperform, but it also describes what happens in your feet when the bones are stressed through overuse. A stress fracture is not the same as one in which the bone breaks into two, but it can be just as critical to your ability to perform daily movements.

Stress Fracture Symptoms

Pain with weight-bearing is your first indicator. It may feel like a sprained foot or ankle, but often it is located in a specific spot. It will be worse while you are active and may go away with rest. The area may be swollen and tender when pressed. There is usually no bruising with this type of fracture.

If this describes what you are feeling, come in and let us evaluate your feet. You need to know what you are dealing with to know how best to treat it. We can order imaging tests to see if there is indeed a fracture, or if other tissues are damaged.

We will guide you through four steps you can take to help your stress fracture heal properly.

Stress Fracture Treatment

Stress fractures usually don’t require aggressive treatments like surgery. However, they do require dedication and patience. A successful treatment plan typically requires:

  • Resting from all athletic activities for a period of time determined by your doctor
  • Using ice to minimize swelling and pain
  • Wearing good, stiff-soled shoes that protect your feet from excessive bending while walking
  • Making sure you eat healthy and get good nutrition for strong bones

Foot and Ankle Fractures Need Expert Care

If you suffer a foot injury that you suspect could be a fracture, you should never try to “wait it out” or push through the pain. Even stress fractures are serious injuries that need to be properly addressed; the wrong treatment, or ignoring treatment altogether, will only make the injury worse in the long run. Potential consequences include significant foot deformities, infections, early-onset post-traumatic arthritis, and other problems.

Our sports injury experts will examine your injury closely (using tools such as diagnostic imaging technology) and speak with you about your lifestyle goals in order to develop a personalized treatment course.

Fractures that are relatively stable may only require immobilization via a cast or walking boot, or even “buddy taping” a broken toe to its neighbor. Sometimes we may need to manipulate a displaced bone back into position. More complicated injuries may require surgical procedures to repair tissue damage and realign or fuse bones.

Once your foot has sufficiently recovered, you can slowly recondition it to handle the strain of your activities again. We’ll provide instructions for when you can start to bear weight again, return to normal shoes and athletic activities, and what stretches and exercises you should perform (and when!) to accelerate your recovery.

Our goal is always to give you the best possible outcome for your injury so you can recover as fully and quickly as possible and continue to live a healthy, active life!

To schedule your appointment with the Advanced Foot & Ankle Specialists team in Chandler, AZ, please call us today at (480) 963-9000. You can also use our online contact form to request an appointment time, and our office will call you to schedule.