The 5 most common fractures around the foot and ankle

Fractures, or broken bones, are common and temporary debilitating injuries. However, with appropriate treatment, patients can often regain their previous level of activity.

Orthopaedic surgeons specialise in the treatment of fractures. Due to the complexity and advances in the medical field, as orthopaedic specialists we tend to subspecialise and work on one particular area or joint in the body. As a foot and ankle orthopaedic consultant I frequently see and treat fractures around the foot and ankle. This area is one of the most intricate and complex in the musculoskeletal system with a total of 28 bones forming the foot. From these bones the most commonly fractured ones are the following:

  • Phalanx bone fractures: Phalanges, the small bones forming the toes, top the list of foot and ankle fractures, accounting for about 45% of cases. These fractures often occur due to accidental impact with hard objects, such as a bed leg or a wall. Fortunately, most of these fractures heal without surgery, typically requiring only splinting or strapping of the neighbouring toes for support.
  • Metatarsal fractures: The metatarsals, situated between the toes and the midfoot, are the second most commonly fractured bones in the foot, with an incidence of around 35%. Fractures of the fifth metatarsal, or little toe, frequently result from direct impact or twisting injuries of the ankle.  
  • Ankle fracture: The ankle joint comprises three bones—the fibula, tibia, and talus—which can break individually or in combination. While ankle fractures often draw significant attention, they are not the most common fractures in the foot and ankle region. Symptoms include pain, bruising, and swelling in the ankle, sometimes resembling an ankle sprain. Proper diagnosis and treatment are crucial, as unstable fractures may require surgical intervention to ensure proper healing and prevent misdiagnosis.
  • Calcaneal fracture: The calcaneus, or heel bone, can fracture when landing heavily on the heels, typically after a fall from a height or high-energy trauma, such as road traffic accidents. Depending on the severity and alignment of the fracture, treatment may involve rest and non-weight bearing with crutches or surgical intervention for realignment and stabilisation. Minimally invasive surgical techniques offer several advantages over traditional open surgery for calcaneal fractures.
  • Talus fracture: Also known as the "aviator's fracture," talus fractures result from significant impact, such as a plane landing or, more commonly nowadays, road traffic accidents. The talus bone, which connects the leg and foot, is crucial for proper function, necessitating surgical intervention in most cases to ensure optimal healing and function restoration.

Foot and ankle fractures are common and can result from sports injuries or higher energy impacts. When I was younger I fractured one of these bones in my foot and I was lucky to have a great foot and ankle specialist near me who helped me recover fully. Now as a foot and ankle surgeon I help my patients recover from similar injuries and I am able to sympathise fully while I put myself in their shoes.

Recognising the signs and symptoms of these conditions is crucial for seeking timely medical attention. Mr Francesc Malagelada is dedicated to diagnosing and treating various foot and ankle conditions, providing personalised treatment plans to address your specific needs and help you get back on your feet comfortably. Contact us and book an appointment today!

Keep in mind that our blog is also a great place if you’d like to stay updated on the latest orthopaedic news.

This article is for information purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Consult your physician for personalised guidance. In case of a medical emergency, contact your doctor or emergency services.