Dr. Andrew Schneider, our Houston podiatrist, often gets asked "Can you walk on a broken foot?" In fact, when patients come into the office for a consultation, they often don't think they broke their foot because they can walk on it. But that is just a myth. 

You see, we see many patients in the office who come in with a fractured toe, foot or ankle. And they've been walking (or sometimes limping) around on the limb. Sometimes for day, or even for weeks in some cases. Unfortunately, while doing so is possible, it's not advisable. In fact, when you walk around with a foot fracture, you could turn a small injury into a large one. Plus, you could extend your recovery period. And you could create a problem that requires surgical repair where once simple immobilization could have guaranteed healing. 

But how and why is it even possible to walk on a broken foot? How can you tell if you've sustained a fracture in your foot? And what should you do if you suspect this kind of injury? Here's what you need to know!

How Can You Walk on a Broken Foot a person's legs on the couch with one foot in a couch and crutches beside the couch

You see, your body is amazing. In addition to 26 different bones, stability in your foot is also supported by a network of tendons and ligaments. And they work in partnership with your feet to bear the weight of standing and walking. As such, even if you have a broken foot bone, you may be able to walk around by relying on the support of the other structures in your feet. And that means you can't determine the extent of a foot injury by your ability to walk on the affected foot. 

Is My Foot Broken? Guidelines to Determine the Extent of Your Injury

Since your ability to walk can't be used as a litmus test to see if you have a foot fracture, you'll need to look for other warning signs. And the most important one is pain. You see, it's never normal to experience foot or ankle pain. So, if you are in pain (especially if you just had an accident or misstep, or if you're a runner or very active) that should be a sign to take a rest and reach out to the office for an appointment. That way, we can provide a thorough examination and diagnose your injury, whether a foot fracture or a different concern is causing your pain. 

Diagnosing and Treating Foot Fractures: What's Involved? 

When you come into the office in pain after an injury, we will almost always recommend X-rays to rule out a foot fracture. If you're a runner or athlete, we may also recommend x-rays to rule out a stress fracture, even if you can't remember when you first started experiencing foot pain. Now, X-ray imaging is the gold-standard for diagnosing a broken foot, toe or ankle. But many patients experience multiple injuries at once. So, in addition to X-rays, we may order further tests if we suspect you've also damaged tendons or ligaments during the course of your injury. 

What happens if we do detect a broken bone on your X-rays? if you have a minor injury like a stress fracture, expect to spend the next six to eight weeks in a walking boot. You'll still be able to walk around, but you'll have to reduce your activity level in order to help your body heal. Now, for fractures where the bone actually breaks, we may need to cast the affected limb. In this case, you may need crutches or a knee scooter in order to get around. 

And what if you have a more complex injury, like an open or displaced fracture? Or what if you sustain an injury like a Jones fracture, affecting the fifth metatarsal bone that doesn't have the benefit of much blood flow? In such cases, treating your broken foot with surgery may be your best option. However, regardless of the location and severity of your injury, seeking immediate medical attention for a suspected fracture is the best way to ensure proper healing with the least invasive treatment plan possible. 

Healing a Broken Foot: What's the Average Timeline? 

As with any kind of injury, the recovery period for a broken foot, ankle or toe bone will vary based on the location of the fracture; the injury severity; and the nature of the treatment protocol, including whether or not surgery is necessary. Still, with most foot or ankle fractures, expect the recovery period to last between six and eight weeks, with lingering discomfort possible for several months, even after bone healing is complete. 

So, Can You Walk on a Broken Foot? 

Here's the deal. As you may have already guessed, you certainly can walk on a broken foot. But that doesn't mean that you should. In fact, we can't emphasize enough what a bad idea it is to walk on an injured foot that may have sustained a fracture. You see, when you continue to put pressure on a foot that's in pain (for any reason), you could be turning a minor injury into a major one. And, in the process, you could complicate both the treatment and recovery process for that injury, no matter which foot, toe or ankle bone you’ve broken.

So, what do we want you to do you do if you sustain a traumatic foot injury, or if you suspect you may have a stress fracture? Here's the right procedure: stop, rest and call our office or click here to request an immediate appointment. When you come into the office, we can provide the appropriate diagnostic images and diagnose your injury. Of course, not every sore foot will be a broken one. But, in cases where the bone is fractured or broken, it's always better to come in to the office sooner than later. That way, we can help prevent bone displacement. And we can help you avoid surgery to correct the injury in most cases.