Sprain vs. Fracture Foot: What’s The Difference?

Foot injuries are widespread among athletes and people who are more active throughout the day. Ankle sprains and foot fractures are very common for people who engage in running and other cardio activities, and the two injuries appear similar to an untrained person. However, there is a difference between them, and so are the treatment procedures. 

A sprain is when you have wholly or partially torn a ligament, which is a fibrous tissue connecting bones to muscles. A fracture is when one or more bones on your foot are broken. The two injuries are similar in terms of pain, swelling, and inability to move. 

That’s not all, as you still need to know how long a sprain and a fracture take to heal and whether each injury can heal on its own, which you will learn if you read on. 

What’s the Difference Between a Foot Sprain and a Foot Fracture?

If you have ever twisted an ankle, you understand how painful it feels. The pain does subside a few minutes after the incident, but it tends to come back after a period of rest. There are two possible reasons for such kind of pain:

  • You have sprained your foot.
  • You have fractured your foot.

People who don’t understand the difference tend to misuse the names, and what you might consider a sprain could be a fracture, or the other way round. It’s best to seek medical attention immediately after the accident. 

Our muscles are connected to bones through a series of fibrous tissues that run across the body called ligaments. If a section of ligaments around your foot gets torn partially or entirely, it results in a foot sprain. It’s also referred to as muscle tearing which is common with athletes or people who exercise a lot. 

On the other hand, if you have a cracked or broken bone on your foot, it results in a foot fracture. Such an injury occurs in extreme situations, such as dropping a heavy object on your foot, being stepped on by someone in sports, or kicking something hard. 

Here are more differences between the two injuries:

Foot Sprain Foot Fracture
It’s common around joints such as ankles and knuckles.  It can affect any part of your foot with bones, including your toes.
A bag of ice and a few days of bed rest helps to manage the situation. It requires immediate medical assistance.
The pain subsides after a few hours. Pain gets worse as the injury remains untreated.


How Long Does a Sprain and a Foot Fracture Take to Heal?

On average, a mild sprain will take a maximum of eight weeks to heal, with a severe injury taking months.  A Foot Fracture takes 6 to 8 weeks to regain mobility. However, it depends on the severity of the injury and the number of broken bones. 

After assessing the nature and extent of the injury, your doctor will tell you how long it would take for your injury to completely heal. Nonetheless, you can also play a part in ensuring the injury recovers within an acceptable time frame by doing the following:

  • Avoid unnecessary movements and putting too much weight on the injured foot.
  • Go for regular check-ups, including scans and X-rays, to see how your foot is healing.
  • Don’t rush your recovery, or else you risk escalating the injury.
  • Avoid unorthodox treatment procedures as they may interfere with the healing process.

Can a Foot Sprain Heal on its Own?

A minor foot sprain can usually heal on its own within a few weeks. Make sure you apply a bag of ice at least twice a day in the first three days after the injury to minimize swelling. A severe sprain might require medical treatment and surgery and might take months to heal. 

Can a Foot Fracture Heal on its Own?

A fractured foot, whether minor or severe, requires medical attention to ensure it heals properly. Fractured foot treatment involves a cast that helps to immobilize the two ends of a broken bone to ensure they fuse. A severe foot fracture might require surgery to help put the bones back together. 

If left untreated, a fractured foot might not heal properly or worsen and require intense medical treatment such as surgery. It’s always best to get in touch with a medical professional, such as Foot and Ankle Surgeon Marina Del Rey and Century City


Foot sprain and fracture are common foot injuries with active people. While a sprain results from a torn ligament, a fracture is a result of a broken bone. They both take weeks to heal for mild conditions, with severe ones taking months, and in most cases require surgery. A sprain can heal on its own, with a fracture requiring medical attention, and to some extent, surgery. 

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