The metatarsal bones are the long bones in your foot that connect your ankle to your toes. They also help you balance when you stand and walk.
A sudden blow or severe twist of your foot, or overuse, can cause a break, or acute (sudden) fracture, in one of the bones.
More about Your Injury
There are five metatarsal bones in your foot. The 5th metatarsal is the outer bone that connects to your little toe. It is the most commonly fractured metatarsal bone.
A break in the part of your 5th metatarsal bone closest to the ankle is called a Jones fracture. This area of the bone has low blood flow. This makes healing difficult.
An avulsion fracture occurs when a tendon pulls a piece of bone away from the rest of the bone. An avulsion fracture on the 5th metatarsal bone is called a "dancer's fracture."
What to Expect
If your bones are still aligned (meaning that the broken ends meet), you will probably wear a cast or splint for 6 to 8 weeks.
- You may be told not to put weight on your foot. You will need crutches or other support to help you get around.
- You may also be fitted for a special shoe or boot that may allow you to bear weight.
If the bones are not aligned, you will need surgery. A bone doctor (orthopedic surgeon) will do your surgery. After surgery you will wear a cast for 6 to 8 weeks.
Relieving Your Symptoms
You can decrease swelling by
- Resting and not putting weight on your foot
- Elevating your foot
Make an ice pack by putting ice in a plastic bag and wrapping a cloth around it.
- DO NOT put the bag of ice directly on your skin. Cold from the ice could damage your skin.
- Ice your foot for about 20 minutes every hour while awake for the first 48 hrs, then 2 to 3 times a day.
For pain, you can use ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, and others) or naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn, and others).
- DO NOT use these medicines for the first 24 hours after your injury. They may increase the risk of bleeding.
- Talk with your health care provider before using these medicines if you have heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney disease, liver disease, or have had stomach ulcers or internal bleeding in the past.
- DO NOT take more than the amount recommended on the bottle or more than your provider tells you to take.
As you recover, your provider will instruct you to begin moving your foot. This may be as soon as 3 weeks or as long 8 weeks after your injury.
When you restart an activity after a fracture, build up slowly. If your foot begins to hurt, stop and rest.
Some exercises you can do to help increase your foot mobility and strength are:
- Write the alphabet in the air or on the floor with your toes.
- Point your toes up and down, then spread them out and curl them up. Hold each position for a few seconds.
- Put a cloth on the floor. Use your toes to slowly pull the cloth toward you while you keep your heel on the floor.
As you recover, your provider will check how well your foot is healing. You will be told when you can:
- Stop using crutches
- Have your cast removed
- Start doing your normal activities again
When to Call the Doctor
Call your provider if you have any of these symptoms:
- Swelling , pain, numbness, or tingling in your leg, ankle, or foot that becomes worse
- Your leg or foot turns purple
Broken foot-metatarsal; Jones fracture; Dancer's fracture; Foot fracture
Safran MA, Zachazewski J, Stone DA. Metatarsal fracture (including Jones and dancer's fractures). In: Safran MA, Zachazewski J, Stone DA. Instructions for Sports Medicine Patients. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders.
Smith MS. Metatarsal fractures. In: Eiff MP, Hatch R, ed. Fracture Management for Primary Care. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 15.
Update Date 11/26/2014
Updated by: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.