When to Seek Medical Care
It is important to see a doctor any time you think you may have broken a bone in your foot. Instead of calling your doctor, go immediately to an emergency department.
For less severe injuries, your doctor may want to see you in the office or may still choose to have you go to the emergency department. If you think you have broken your foot, and your doctor is not available by phone or is not calling you back, it is reasonable to go to the emergency department to be examined.
Call 911, if needed, for transport to the emergency department. Do not attempt to drive with a broken foot.
Go immediately to the nearest emergency department if these conditions develop with a suspected broken foot:
- The foot is blue, cold, or numb.
- The foot is misshapen, deformed, or pointing in the wrong direction.
- There is a large cut or wound near a possible broken bone.
- You feel you need immediate treatment for any other reason.
Exams and Tests
The doctor will ask you about the injury and examine you. X-rays are often useful in diagnosing broken bones in the foot, but sometimes x-rays are not needed.
- Injured toes are usually treated in the same way whether they are broken or just bruised, so x-rays are optional for these injuries.
- Sometimes a doctor's examination is all that is needed to be certain bones in the midfoot are not broken. Doctors may use the "Ottawa foot rules" to decide if an x-ray is needed. If none of the following are present, an x-ray is not required.
- Pain when the doctor pushes over the base of the fifth metatarsal bone
- Pain when the doctor pushes over the navicular bone
- Inability to take 4 steps, both immediately after injury and at the examination
- Other fancy ways of taking pictures of the bones of the foot (such as a bone scan, CT, MRI, or ultrasound) can be performed to look for unusual or hidden injuries but are rarely needed. These tests generally are not obtained while in the emergency department and usually are ordered only after consultation with a foot surgeon.