Signs You’ve Fractured Your Foot or Ankle

Injuring your foot or ankle can happen anywhere, and the variety and complexity of these injuries can vary. The most common fractures are stress-induced and common among athletes. However, you can easily break your foot or your ankle by taking a wrong step, tripping on a sidewalk, or landing wrong on your foot. Pain is often the first sign, but there are many factors that come into play to address the injury.

Foot and Ankle Bone Structures

Ankle Anatomy

The ankle consists of three bones that conjoin at your ankle. These three bones offer support to the weight of your entire body to ensure proper balance and also mobility. That’s a lot of pressure without also experiencing a fracture in one or more of those bones. It’s important to understand how these bones can be impacted so that you can properly consider how you can address their healing process should one or more of them experience a fracture.

The tibia, or shinbone, conjoins on the interior and posterior sides of the ankle. The fibula is the smaller lower leg bone, and the talus joins the calcaneus (heel bone) with the tibia and fibula. Most often, injuries in this region entail the straining or tearing of the ligaments and muscles that help to conjoin these moving parts. However, one small break in any of these bones can prove to be far more challenging to endure and heal.

Foot Anatomy

The foot’s complexity of bones means that the possibility of a fracture is highly probable. The calcaneus is often fractured through a fall. Vertebral fractures can co-occur with highly painful fractures of the calcaneus. The phalanges (toes) and metatarsals (the long bones that attach the phalanges to the group of joints commonly referred to as Chopart’s joint) can break individually but most commonly as a group. The complex joint is so difficult to assess that 41% of dislocations and fracture-dislocations of this joint are misdiagnosed and are 75%-90% concomitant with other fractures in the foot.

Signs and Symptoms of a Break

The most common signs and symptoms of a broken ankle include the following:

  • Pain and tenderness.
  • Swelling.
  • Bruising (not long after an injury).
  • Difficulty walking or standing on the affected leg.
  • Deformity.
  • Numbness.
  • A significant difference in appearance from the uninjured foot or ankle.

The ligaments and the nervous and musculoskeletal tissue in the fracture region will also be impacted. The impact on mobility, balance, nerve functionality, and range of motion is obvious.

When To See a Doctor

You should see a doctor after any injury so that they can assess the severity of it and properly diagnose treatment. This may involve taking X-rays or an MRI of the tissue to see the extent of the injury or damage.


Fractures of the ankle or foot can occur in similar manners. Common injuries can occur from sports activities, car accidents, falls, and missteps. Complex foot fractures can occur with runners just as equally as they can from a car accident, so it’s not an injury to dismiss or take lightly. Twisting one’s foot not only can tear ligaments but also cause fractures in the complex Chopart’s joint, which are some of the most serious injuries to the foot. An abrupt increase in use or repetitive overload on the joint region can increase the potential for stress fractures.

Risk Factors

Many risk factors involve high-impact activities, improper techniques or use of sports (or work) equipment, increasing activity abruptly, and having a cluttered or poorly lit home or workspace. Health risks, such as osteoporosis, diabetes, or smoking, can also increase your chances of injury. Having a history of previous falls and/or fractures can also predispose you to future injuries. Risk factors vary by gender, age, comorbidities, and medications.


Although uncommon, complications can impact the healing process if you have any of the following at the time of injury:


by PublicCo is licensed with Pixabay License

Although these injuries are common, there are steps that you can take to prevent them.

  • Shoes:
    • Always wear proper shoes for the activity you plan to participate in.
    • If you’re an active athlete, replace your athletic shoes regularly so that they maintain the support of your ankles and feet.
  • Exercise:
    • Don’t rush into a new sport or activity.
    • Start slowly and increase your activity gradually. Be sure to stretch beforehand.
    • Ensure you’re doing exercises to strengthen your ankle muscles.
    • Cross-training is another great way to ensure that the muscles surrounding the bones are strong and can adjust to different types of movement without risk of injury.
  • Diet:
    • Build your bone strength through the consumption of calcium-rich foods and vitamin D supplements.
  • Prepare:
    • When you’re walking, cycling, or running in the dark, always use a night light to ensure you don’t trip or fall from obstacles on the ground that are hard to see.
    • Ensure your house and workplace maintain a clutter-free pathway for everyone to use without risk of injury.


Your doctor can provide the best advice and treatment for any injury to the foot or ankle, but common treatments often include the following steps:

  • RICE — rest, ice, compression, and elevation.
  • Pain medication and anti-inflammatory medication.
  • Immobilization through the use of a brace, cast, or splint.

After self-treatment and a doctor’s review, you may require additional treatment, such as physical therapy and/or surgery.

Schedule an Appointment

If you have recently injured your foot or ankle and it isn’t improving, schedule a consultation appointment with Dr. Lisa Schoene or one of the other experienced professionals at Gurnee Podiatry & Sports Medicine Associates in Chicago or Gurnee, Illinois. If you suspect that you may have a fractured ankle or foot, we offer podiatry services and treatments to address your specific injury. Our caring staff will ensure you understand your diagnosis and help you learn how to prevent recurring future injuries. Contact us to schedule your appointment today.