How to Treat a Broken Foot Bone

When you break a bone in your foot or ankle, sometimes you know it right away: You feel the sudden and tremendous pain, and you may even hear the bone snap.

In other cases, you know you've hurt yourself, but you're not sure if you have a broken foot bone. Look for these signs:

  • You can't move the ankle or foot (or a particular toe) or you can do so only with great pain.

  • The area is painful when you touch it with a finger.

  • The area is swollen and/or bluish.

If you're still not sure, play it safe and treat the injury as if it were a broken bone: Immobilize the foot (and/or ankle) and go to the emergency room.

If you know or suspect you have a broken bone, you can treat it as follows. Carefully remove the shoe and sock, and then immobilize the foot, ankle, and lower leg. One way to do this is to splint the entire lower leg, using a board, straight sticks, or even a thick magazine. Place padding (towels or clothes) between the leg and the splint, then tie the splint in place with rope, cloth, or a belt. Tie the splint tightly enough to hold it in place but not so tightly that circulation is restricted; do not tie directly over the break.

Another way to splint a broken foot or ankle is to gently slip a pillow or folded blanket underneath it, curve it up around the foot and ankle, and tie it in place, creating a circular "cast."

Warning!
If you suspect that you have broken a bone, carefully immobilize the foot, ankle, and lower leg. And, if possible, lie on your back to "raise" your foot's position relative to your heart.

Do not move the foot any more than is absolutely necessary to immobilize it. Seek medical assistance immediately.

Elevation of the foot helps stop swelling and bleeding, but don't move the foot to elevate it. Instead, if you are being assisted by someone else, lie down on your back, thus "raising" your foot's position in relation to your heart. Unless there is no other way for you to get help, don't hop around on the opposite foot.

If the injury that broke the bone also caused cuts on the foot, stop the bleeding in the ways described on the page of this article about foot lacerations. If a bone is protruding from the foot, treat it the same way you would a foreign body in the foot (also discussed on the treating foot lacerations page).

Once you've immobilized the foot and stopped the bleeding, get to a hospital emergency room. It's likely that your broken bone will need to be set and placed in a cast. If it's a toe that's broken, it may heal with the help of shoe cutouts or special padding inside your shoes. Wherever the fracture site, however, it's important that you get X rays so a doctor can determine if the broken bones are in proper alignment to heal.

Sometimes damage to a bone in your foot may occur over time, rather than all at once. Learn how to deal with this situation in the next section.

To learn more about treating and avoiding problems with your feet, visit:

  • Everyday Foot Problems: Discover what causes some of the most commonly encountered foot problems, as well as how to treat or avoid them.
  • How to Care for Your Feet: Learn how to keep your feet -- and yourself -- healthy and happy with these tips on caring for your feet, including selecting the right shoes.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.