What are the signs and symptoms of a broken foot?

For the average person, a broken bone is a big deal, and it's something that (hopefully) does not happen often. Broken bones of any type can be painful. However, a broken foot can be especially troublesome, because the foot needs to bear weight.

So, how do you know if you have a broken foot?

Here are the common signs that you have a broken foot.

  • Pain

  • You are limping

  • Swelling

  • Bruising

  • Tenderness

  • Pain when walking 

Some things to note

If you have a Joint dislocation: If the bones are significantly displaced, we may be able to visually identify the break due to a deformity occurring after the injury.

In some cases, the sense of pain from a broken foot may be diminished or nonexistent:

  • People with existing diseases or conditions: 

  • People with altered pain sensation due to peripheral neuropathy (persons with diabetes are a classic example), 

  •  This also may occur in persons with spinal cord injuries.

In these cases, bruising, swelling, and deformity may be the only clues to a potential fracture.

Diagnosing a Broken Foot


A broken foot is diagnosed, firstly, by figuring out exactly how the injury happened. Identifying cause will often tell us what type of injury may exist and point to any additional damages that may have occurred.

Other factors to note are a past medical history of the patient, and how much time has passed since the injury happened.

Using X-Rays and CT Scans to Identify A Broken Foot

X-rays are often taken to evaluate the status of the bones in the foot and to check for a fracture. Other factors to note

  • For some foot fractures, X-rays may not be adequate to visualize the injury. This is often true for metatarsal stress fractures, where bone scans are used if the history and physical examination suggest a potential fracture, but the plain X-rays are normal.

  • Computerized tomography (CT) may be used to assess fractures of the calcaneus and talus, since it may better be able to illustrate the anatomy of the ankle and midfoot joint and potential associated injuries.

What are the causes of a broken foot?


We have different names for it, but they all mean the same thing: the bone is damaged. Fracture, break, crack, they all indicate that you have a broken bone.

Many times the cause of the injury will be reasonably apparent. You had something fall on your foot, or you fell on it wrong.

A broken foot could also develop over time due to the stress of walking or running, so it doesn’t necessarily have to happen as a result of direct trauma.

Common causes of a broken foot:

  • Falling

  • Having your foot crushed by having a heavy object fall on it

  • Overuse or stress injuries

  • Crunching your foot by missing a step while you are walking

Other types of “broken foot” injuries:

  • Calcaneus fractures, which often occur when landing after jumping from too high up

  • Midfoot injuries (metatarsals, phalanges) caused by direct blows

  • Bad ankle twists

How do we treat a broken foot?

One of the best ways to treat a broken foot at home is RICE.

  • Rest

  • Ice

  • Elevation

  • Compression

If you think you have broken your foot, this is a great way to deal with it immediately and ease the pain. If the decision is made to seek medical care, you can always continue the RICE regimen to help ease the pain.

What are the possible complications of a broken foot?

As with any injury, additional complications may occur. Major complications can include:

  • Bones failing to heal and requiring surgery

  • The possibility of arthritis

  • Infection or tendon damage, especially with an open fracture

How can we prevent a broken foot? 


Wearing supportive footwear is an excellent way to prevent foot injury. Unfortunately, certain sports and professions carry a much higher risk for the injury.

For instance, if you are a construction or trade worker dealing with the dangers of heights or heavy equipment/weights, you have a much higher chance of breaking your foot.

The same goes for sports that call for a bunch of twisting or where you are facing possible "blows to the foot". These could be the normal "contact" sports such as football and hockey, or even sports like basketball or soccer where your foot risks being stomped or cleated by an opponent.

When should I call the doctor for foot pain?

If you have a broken foot, you'll want to get in to have it evaluated immediately by a medical professional. Take a look at the symptoms above. If you have them, give us a call and get in quickly to have it examined. In the meantime, employ the RICE protocol to help ease the swelling and pain.

Good luck!