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Nearly one-fourth of all the bones in your body are in your feet. A broken (fractured) bone in your forefoot or in one of your toes is often painful, but rarely disabling. Most of the time, these injuries heal without operative treatment.

There are two types of foot fractures: stress fractures and general bone fractures. Stress fractures usually occur in the bones of the forefoot extending from the toes to the middle of the foot. Stress fractures are like tiny cracks in the bone surface. They can happen with sudden increases in exercise (such as running or walking for longer distances or times), improper training techniques, or a change in surfaces. Very often we cannot come up with a reason.

Most other types of fractures extend through the bone, and are called bone fractures. They may be stable, in which there is no shift in bone alignment, or displaced, in which the bone ends no longer line up properly. Bone fractures usually result from trauma, such as dropping a heavy object on your foot, or from a twisting injury. If the fractured bone does not break through the skin, it is called a closed fracture. If the fracture does break through the skin, it is called an open fracture.

Treatment varies according to the nature and location of the break. Xrays are always in order, since what hurts may not be what is really damaged. (A jammed pinky toe may hurt, but it is often the metatarsal behind it that is broken - and that's a more serious problem.)

Generally it's a good idea to keep the foot in a soft cast for a week or so, and then reevaluate the case. Usually, fractures heal, although it may take 6 weeks or more.

Common symptoms for any type of foot fracture includes pain, swelling, and sometimes bruising. Be sure to seek medical attention for any suspected foot fracture.