The foot has 26 bones, and can be divided into 3 parts:
- The hind foot is comprised of two bones, the talus bone which connects to the bones of the lower leg, and the calcaneus bone which forms the heel.
- The midfoot is comprised of the navicular, cuboid, and three cuneiform bones.
- The forefoot is made up of five metatarsal bones and 14 toe bones called phalanges.
The hind foot is separated from the midfoot by the mediotarsal joint and the midfoot is separated from the forefoot by the lisfranc joint. Muscles, tendons and ligaments support the bones and joints of the feet enabling them to withstand the entire body’s weight while walking, running and jumping. Despite this, trauma and stress can cause fractures in the foot. Extreme force is required to fracture the bones in the hind foot. The most common type of foot fracture is a stress fracture, which occurs when repeated activities produce small cracks in the bones.
Types of Foot Fractures
Foot fractures can involve different bones and joints and are classified into several types:
- Calcaneal fractures: This type affects the heel bone and occurs mostly because of high-energy collisions. It can cause disabling injuries and if the subtalar joint is involved it is considered a severe fracture.
- Talar fractures: The talus bone helps to transfer weight and forces across the joint. Talus fractures usually occur at the neck or mid portion of the talus. Sometimes these are associated with dislocations.
- Navicular fractures: Navicular fractures are rare and include mostly stress fractures that occur with sports activities, such as running and gymnastics, because of repeated loading on the foot.
- Lisfranc fractures: This type of fracture occurs when the flexed foot is twisted. This can occur whilst running if your foot gets caught in a pot hole or during contact sports when your foot is twisted by another player.
Foot fractures commonly occur during a fall, motor vehicle accidents, from sporting injuries or from direct trauma such as dropping a heavy object on your foot. Stress fractures may result from overuse.
The common symptoms of a foot fracture include pain, bruising, tenderness, swelling, deformity and inability to bear weight.
Your doctor diagnoses a foot fracture by reviewing your medical history and performing a thorough physical examination of your foot. Imaging tests such as X-rays, MRI or CT scan may be ordered to confirm the diagnosis.
Treatment depends on the type of fracture sustained. For mild fractures, nonsurgical treatment is advised and includes rest, ice, compression, and elevation of the foot. Your doctor may suggest a splint or a cast to immobilize the foot. For more severe fractures, surgery will be required to align, reconstruct or later fuse the joints. Bone fragments may be held together with combinations of pins, plates and screws.
Physical therapy may be recommended to improve range of motion and strengthen the foot muscles. Weight bearing however should be a gradual process with the help of a cane or walking boot.