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Nearly one-fourth of all the bones in your body are in your feet. A broken (fractured) bone in your forefoot or in one of your toes is often painful, but rarely disabling. Usually, treatment consists of immobilizing the fractured bone to allow for proper healing to take place. This may consist of strapping of toes together, the use of a fracture shoe, a walking cast, or a traditional cast. In most cases, patients can continue to walk while healing takes place. Most of the time, these injuries heal without operative treatment. Fractures which are significantly displaced (separated), or when they involve a joint surface, surgery may be required to allow for proper healing.

There are two types of foot fractures: stress fractures and general bone fractures. Stress fractures usually occur in the bones of the forefoot extending from the toes to the middle of the foot. Stress fractures are like tiny cracks in the bone surface. They can happen with sudden increases in exercise (such as running or walking for longer distances or times), improper training techniques, or a change in surfaces. Stress fractures can be difficult to diagnose, especially early on. This is due to the fact that the patient will not recall a specific injury. In addition, stress fractures do not always show up well on an x-ray. If your doctor suspects a stress fracture, other tests may be ordered to help with the diagnosis, such as a bone scan, ultrasound, MRI, and CT scan.

Most other types of fractures extend through the bone, and are called bone fractures. They may be stable, in which there is no shift in bone alignment, or displaced, in which the bone ends no longer line up properly. Bone 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. If the fracture does break through the skin, it is called an open fracture. Open fractures are usually more serious.

Because of the complex structures in the foot, there are some other, more specific types of fractures that can occur. For example, the fifth metatarsal, known as the little or pinky toe, is susceptible to a variety of different fractures. The relationship between the ankle and the foot can be compromised by an ankle-twisting injury, which 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 known as a Jones fracture, which occurs near the base of the bone and disrupts its blood supply. This injury may take longer to heal or require surgery.
Fractures of the toes are often due to walking barefoot in the house and hitting a chair or night stand. The fifth toe is often the one that takes the abuse. While most fractured toes heel well, it's always best to have the injured to examined and x-rayed just to be sure that a more serious injury is not present.

Common symptoms for any type of foot fracture includes pain, swelling, and sometimes bruising. If you think you may have a fracture, you'll need to be examined and most likely have an x-ray taken. Like many things in life, treatment is easier if begun when not put off. Ignoring the problem will most likely extend the amount of time you'll have pain, and might lead to permanent pain and disability.