How Do You Know If Your Foot Is Broken?

The top of your foot is hurting and you don't know why. You don't want to rush to the doctor's office if it's nothing that a little ice won't fix. You don't want to ignore it, either, if you should be making that doctor's appointment. How do you tell? Learn more about the signs that may mean that you've broken your foot.

Your Foot Pain Came On Slowly

The human foot has 26 bones in it, and a whole lot of cartilage, tendons, muscles, and nerves connect all of those bones together, so trying to figure out why part of that bundle is hurting isn't easy. There are several reasons that the top of your foot can be hurting, some more common than others, so don't automatically assume the worst. 

The good news is that if the top of your foot started hurting slowly and has gradually gotten worse, it probably isn't broken.

The bad news is that you need to see a doctor eventually, because something is causing your pain, and whatever it is needs to be addressed. 

Your Foot Pain Came On Suddenly

The possibility that you may have broken your foot isn't fun to consider, but if your foot pain came out of nowhere, there's a strong possibility that your foot actually is broken. Look for these symptoms:

  • it's swollen only on the top of the foot
  • it is painful to the touch
  • flexing your foot hurts (the word "painful" isn't a strong enough word for how that feels)
  • putting your weight on it hurts, too
  • you don't remember injuring it
  • the pain is just before your toes or directly in the top center of your foot
  • it gets better after resting

You may have a stress fracture. They're common with people who've suddenly taken up jogging or another sport, or have recently been doing some heavy lifting (like helping a buddy move some furniture to a new apartment).

Women suffer from stress fractures twice as often as men, partly because of the increased risk of osteoporosis and partly because of the high heels they're likely to be wearing.

Sometimes the stress fracture is a case of "too much, too fast" (like helping your buddy move, or a new exercise plan that involves running or aerobics).

You aren't exactly safe, however, even if you are a dedicated jogger, because sometimes a stress fracture is also caused by repetitive shocks to your foot. Those kinds of injuries are cases of "too often, too long" and mean that you're pushing yourself too hard or need better footwear.

You've Had A Recent Injury To Your Foot

If you have recently injured your foot—you dropped something on it or someone ran over it—it's possible your foot has been broken during the accident. If you don't want to head straight to the Emergency Room, try ice, elevation, and rest.

If it works, and after a few days your foot feels better, you've probably avoided an actual break. However, if the pain keeps reoccurring after you've been on your feet a while, or any of the list above applies, see a doctor as soon as possible. A stress fracture only gets worse if it's left untreated.

You're the one who has to decide if you want to seek medical attention or not, and by no means is this a definitive list. If you have any foot pain that lasts more than a few days, you should probably see a doctor, such as at Family Foot & Ankle Physicians, just to be safe.