Foot fractures are more common than you might realize. That’s because almost one-fourth of all the bones in your body are located in your feet! While a fractured or broken bone in your foot or toes is usually painful, the good news is that most foot fractures aren’t disabling—and many heal without surgery or other invasive procedures.

General types of foot fractures

There are two common types of breaks or fractures that happen in the foot: stress fractures and bone fractures.

Stress fractures are tiny cracks in the surface of a bone. They usually occur in the forefoot, or the bones that extend from your toes to your mid-foot. These types of fractures are often caused by changes in fitness routines, such as improper training, sudden increases in exercise, or exercising on a different surface.

Bone fractures are breaks that extend through the bone. They can be either stable (the bones remain aligned) or displaced (the broken bone ends don’t line up properly). Traumas like twisting injuries or dropping a heavy object on your foot are the most common causes of bone fractures.

Specific types of foot fractures

Because there are so many complex bone structures in your feet, there are some specific fractures that can occur. One example is the pinky toe, or fifth metatarsal, which is susceptible to several different types of fractures.

A twisted ankle can cause a type of fracture that pulls a small piece of bone away with a torn ankle tendon. The Jones fracture, a more serious injury, is another type of ankle bone break that occurs near the base of the bone and disrupts the blood supply.

Symptoms and treatment of foot fractures

For nearly any type of foot fracture, the common symptoms are pain and swelling. There may also be bruising around the area of the break, and difficulty in walking. Having your foot x-rayed by your doctor is the only way to tell for sure whether you’ve fractured a bone in your foot.

Treatment for a foot fracture depends on the severity of the injury. In many cases, the fracture will heal on its own, and your podiatrist may prescribe wraps, splints, or orthotics to keep the bones from shifting, as well as over-the-counter or prescription medication for pain. You may need to use crutches for a period of time to keep pressure off your healing foot.

For severely broken foot or ankle bones, surgery may be required to repair the damage, followed by a recovery period which may involve physical therapy to return the foot and ankle to normal flexibility.