Understanding Foot Fractures & Ankle Sprains 

Foot fractures

Our feet have a big responsibility to uphold – they take us everywhere we go, bear the burden of our entire weight, keep us balanced and absorb the impact when we fall or land on the ground. Since they are involved in almost every movement we make, the tendency for an injury is expected to be high. Two conditions that our feet are especially susceptible to are foot fractures and ankle sprains.

These are two totally different conditions, affecting different structures in the foot. The experts at Foot and Ankle Specialists of Illinois understand how challenging it can be to determine the source of your pain – which is why we wanted to offer information about how fractures and sprains happen, where you typically feel pain and common symptoms of each. You should always consult a professional to receive proper care for a foot injury of any kind, but this information can help you with basic best practices for home care.

How Are Foot Fractures & Ankle SprainsDifferent?

The biggest difference is that fractures involve damage to the bone, while sprains are due to damage done to the ligaments. Fractures are due to repetitive or intense impacts, while sprains are caused by overextending, rolling, twisting, or other forces that roll the ankle outward.

Fractures can happen anywhere, however, they occur more commonly in high contact places like the heel, ball of your foot, toes, top of the foot, or ankle bone. Sprained ankle pain occurs very near or around the ankle bone.

Causes of Foot Fractures

The most common cause of stress fractures is a sudden increase in physical activity. This increase can be in the frequency of activity—such as exercising more days per week. It can also be in the duration or intensity of activity—the NIH listed people who run more than 25 miles per week, athletic sports (casual and professional), as well as military service members as individuals who are at high risk of fractures.

Even for the nonathlete, a sudden increase in activity can cause a stress fracture. For example, if you walk infrequently on a day-to-day basis but end up walking excessively (or on uneven surfaces) while on a vacation, you might experience a stress fracture. A new style of shoes can lessen your foot’s ability to absorb repetitive forces and result in a stress fracture.

Bone Insufficiency

Conditions that leave your bone density and strength compromised, such as osteoporosis, can lead to a higher frequency of fractures. They can even become so fragile that fractures occur during everyday activities. Another contributing factor could be vitamin insufficiencies, such as vitamin D or calcium.

Poor Conditioning

Conditioning isn’t all about cardio. An important part of preparing for athletic events or activities like hiking, running, weight lifting, is to gradually increase the intensity over time. Deciding to ‘jump into it’ and not give your body an adequate amount of preparation can result in stress fractures.

Improper Technique

As versatile as the human body is – performing activities with improper technique can cause serious problems. Our feet are their strongest when we bear weight on the strongest structures and use the auxiliary bones and muscles for balance and fine motor function. Problems quickly arise when we shift our weight onto these more delicate structures, overloading them.

Improper Equipment

Having the right tools for the job. We have designed footwear specifically for the various tasks and activities that we engage in. Runners have running shoes, hikers have hiking boots, and so on. They are each designed to support, cushion, and strengthen your feet. Wearing thin flip flops while running long distances is a problem waiting to happen

Common Symptoms of Foot Fractures

The most common symptom of a stress fracture in the foot or ankle is pain – worsening as you put weight on it or get active. Other symptoms may include:

  • Pain that diminishes when resting
  • Pain that occurs and intensifies during normal, daily activities
  • Swelling on the top of the foot or outside of the ankle
  • Tenderness at the site of the fracture
  • Possible bruising

Causes of a Sprained Ankle

A sprain is different from a break or fracture because it involves the ligaments instead of bone. There are a few ligaments surrounding the ankle that anchor nearby muscle to the bones, this is how you control your foot and ankle movement. The NIH estimates that 1 in 4 sports injuries involve an ankle sprain.

When your foot is in a compromised position, usually unbalanced or under twisting or lateral pressure – your ankle can ‘roll’ outwards resulting in a sprain. As your ankle turns, the ligaments running along the outside of the bone experience severe stretching or in some cases tearing. Causes of a sprained ankle might include:

  • Twisting your ankle
  • Landing awkwardly after jumping or sharply pivoting
  • Walking or exercising on an uneven surface
  • Another person stepping or landing on your foot

Symptoms of A Sprained Ankle 

Signs and symptoms of a sprained ankle vary depending on the severity of the injury. They may include:

  • Pain, especially when you bear weight on the affected foot
  • Tender to the touch 
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Restricted range of motion
    • Feeling pain as you attempt to move
  • Instability in the ankle
    • Likely to roll it again
  • Popping sensation or sound at the time of injury

Foot and Ankle Treatment Available in Algonquin, Illinois

If you or a loved one are experiencing foot and ankle pain, or have a foot condition that is causing you pain, discomfort, or uncertainty – reach out to the team at Foot and Ankle Specialists of Illinois for a consultation. Our team is expertly trained to diagnose and treat any foot and ankle-related condition, safely and effectively!

Call our offices to speak with a member of our team or schedule an appointment online today!