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Forefoot Breaks - If I Can Walk Does That Mean I Don't Have a Fracture?

The long, thin bones of the metatarsals and toes of your foot play a part in walking and standing. They ground you help keep your balance and push off the ground when you take a step. They are strong enough to do their jobs, but a sharp force can break them easily, leaving you with a metatarsal fracture or a broken toe.

Metatarsal and toe fractures, like other broken bones are usually painful. The area around the break quickly becomes inflamed and fills with fluid, causing swelling. Blood vessels are damaged creating some bruises around the painful spot. Depending on where the break is you may or may not be able bear weight and in some cases you can still walk. Broken bones in the toes often cause less pain and you may be able to walk with a broken toe. But should you? And if you can walk does that mean that you don't have a fracture.

First of all it is usually not possible to tell if a foot is broken or sprained just by looking at it. Some signs are apparent. If your foot is

  • misshapen, deformed, or pointing in the wrong direction

  • redness or bruising at the injury site

  • blue, cold or numb

  • if there is a large cut or wound near a possible broken bone

  • if you are in severe pain

You need to seek immediate medical attention.

Self-care options often tend to end up causing more problems. One of the most typical ones seen in our office is using elastic bandages to wrap the foot so tightly that it cuts off the blood supply to the foot. Incorrect splinting or taping can also cause later problems with malunion or non-union healing. If pain continues or if you have difficulty walking you will need to have your foot thoroughly examined to diagnose the damage and determine the extent of the problem. Until you see a doctor for a diagnosis and a plan of treatment you should not walk on a suspected broken foot as you could cause more damage to the foot.

It is entirely possible to break a bone in your foot and be able to walk. Don’t take your metatarsal bones or your toes for granted. Fractures of the feet and ankles can be complex and could potentially affect your mobility for years. Fractures need proper care to heal correctly and avoid chronic pain later.

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