Foot & Ankle Fractures

What causes stress fractures?

Most stress fractures occur in the weight-bearing bones of the foot and lower leg. Fractures occur when the supporting muscles become overtired and are no longer properly absorbing shock. The stress of impact transfers to the bones creating small cracks or fractures.

Studies show that athletes participating in tennis, track and field, gymnastics, dance, and basketball are at high risk for stress fractures. In all of these sports, the repeated stress of the foot striking the ground can cause problems. However, even people with average to sedentary lifestyles may suffer stress fractures from normal daily activities.

How do I know if I have a foot or ankle fracture?

If you started feeling pain soon after a specific accident involving your foot or ankle, you will want to have it examined for sprains or fractures. Stress fractures develop more slowly, but most of the symptoms are the same, including:

  • Pain that increases with weight-bearing activity, and diminishes with rest
  • Pain that becomes more severe and occurs during normal, daily activities
  • Swelling on the top of the foot or the outside of the ankle
  • Tenderness at the site of the fracture
  • Bruising

How are foot and ankle fractures treated?

Rest – You should refrain from physical activity involving the injured foot or ankle until you consult a doctor. If you have a stress fracture, you may need to take break from the activity that caused the fracture. It typically takes 6 to 8 weeks for a stress fracture to heal. Fractures caused by a specific incident or injury will vary in severity and make take more or less time to heal.

Protective footwear – Protective footwear such as a stiff-soled shoe, a wooden-soled sandal, or a removable leg fracture brace shoe may be prescribed to help to reduce stress on your foot and leg while it heals.

Casts – Casts are not used often, but sometimes they are needed, especially for fractures in the fifth metatarsal bone (on the outer side of the foot) or in the navicular or talus bones which all take longer to heal.

Surgery – Surgery is sometimes necessary for hard-to-treat stress fractures, or for complicated fractures caused by accident or injury to the foot or ankle.

Treatment will vary depending on the location of your fracture and its severity. Before receiving any treatment, the first step is to have an evaluation by one of our physicians. The doctor will then be in a position to make a recommendation.