A broken foot is an injury to your bone, usually painful and can be serious. Your injury could range from relatively mild – a fracture (a minute crack in your bone) – to a serious break, where your bone pushes through your skin.
What is a broken foot?
The foot is made up of 26 bones and is divided into three sections – the hindfoot, midfoot and forefoot. The hindfoot is the rear of the foot at the ankle and heel and contains two bones. The midfoot contains five bones and the forefoot, which is the longest part of the foot and includes the toes, contains 19 bones.
If you have a broken foot, one or any combination of these bones develops a fracture, or gets broken.
What are the symptoms of a broken foot?
The main symptom of a seriously broken foot is extreme pain immediately after the injury. You might notice a snapping or grinding noise at the point of injury.
The pain will be less severe and develop slowly over time if the break is minor.
Other symptoms of a broken foot include:
- A bone protruding through the skin (if the break is serious)
- Tenderness when touching the area
- Pain when you put weight on your foot
- Instability in the foot
- Experiencing dizziness or nausea as a result of shock or the pain
What causes a broken foot?
A broken foot is usually caused by one of the following:
- Dropping something heavy on your foot
- Someone stamping heavily on your foot
- Kicking something hard
- Stubbing or twisting your foot
- Landing heavily on your feet from a height or falling
- As a result of a car accident
- Overuse – if you develop a stress fracture – more likely if you do a lot of running or have osteoporosis
How is a broken foot diagnosed?
If you suspect that you have a broken foot, it’s important that you seek medical advice straight away. Especially so if your foot is deformed, extremely swollen or has a bone protruding through the skin. Going to your local A&E department is the best course of action.
A doctor will diagnose a broken foot by asking you some questions about your injury and symptoms, gently examining your foot – checking its range of motion. They may refer you for an imaging test – such as a bone or CT scan, an x-ray or MRI – if there’s signs of a break.
How is a broken foot treated?
Treatment for a broken foot usually depends on the severity of the break and what area of the foot is affected.
Painkillers, either over the counter such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, or stronger on prescription will help to manage the pain. This – and resting the foot – may be all that is needed if you experience a minor fracture.
In certain, more severe cases, you will need to wear a cast, splint, brace or boot to ensure your foot remains still and rested. You might need to use crutches too, to avoid bearing weight on your foot. In some cases, you may need to use a wheelchair for a certain amount of time.
Sometimes, physiotherapy is required after treatment. In the case of severe breaks, surgery may be required to pin the bones back together or manipulate them into place.
If you’re unsure what treatment you should go for, or the above treatments don’t work for you, our team of expert specialists are here to help.