Toe and Forefoot Fractures
Nearly one-fourth of all the bones in your body are in your feet, which provide you with both support and movement. A broken bone in your forefoot (metatarsals) or in one of your toes (phalanges) is often painful but rarely disabling. Most of the time, these injuries heal without operative treatment.
Stress fractures frequently occur in the bones of the forefoot that extend from your toes to the middle of your foot. Stress fractures are like tiny cracks in the bone surface. They can occur with sudden increases in training intensity (such as running or walking for longer distances or times), improper training techniques or changes in training surfaces.
Most other types of fractures extend through the bone. They may be stable (no shift in bone alignment) or displaced (bone ends no longer line up). These fractures usually result from trauma, such as dropping a heavy object on your foot, or from a twisting injury. If the fractured bone does not break through the skin, it is called a closed fracture.
Several types of fractures occur to the forefoot bone on the side of the little toe (fifth metatarsal). Ballet dancers may break this bone during a misstep or fall from a pointe position. An ankle-twisting injury may tear the tendon that attaches to this bone and pull a small piece of the bone away. A more serious injury in the same area is a Jones fracture, which occurs near the base of the bone and disrupts the blood supply to the bone. This injury may take longer to heal or require surgery.
Pain, swelling, and sometimes bruising are the most common signs of a fracture in the foot. If you have a broken toe, you may be able to walk, but this usually aggravates the pain. If the pain, swelling, and discoloration continue for more than two or three days, or if pain interferes with walking, something could be seriously wrong; see a doctor as soon as possible. If you delay getting treatment, you could develop persistent foot pain and arthritis. You could also change the way you walk (your gait), which could lead to the formation of painful calluses on the bottom of your foot or other injuries.
See a doctor as soon as possible if you think that you have a broken bone in your foot or toe. Until your appointment, keep weight off the leg and apply ice to reduce swelling. Use an ice pack or wrap the ice in a towel so it does not come into direct contact with the skin. Apply the ice for no more than 20 minutes at a time. Take an analgesic such as aspirin or ibuprofen to help relieve the pain. Wear a wider shoe with a stiff sole.