Jones Fracture of the Foot: Symptoms, Treatment, and Recovery

A Jones fracture is a break in the long bone outside the foot (fifth metatarsal) that connects to the pinky toe.

Jones fractures are caused by sudden force on the outside of the foot when twisted, usually with the heel off the ground. This can occur from overuse, playing sports, dancing, or a slip-and-fall accident.

A Jones fracture is located near the middle of the bone, an area that can be difficult to heal because it lacks blood supply. This injury may or may not require surgery.

This article explains a Jones fracture of the foot, its causes, and symptoms. It also discusses how Jones fractures are diagnosed and treated.

x-ray image of bone fracture at 5th Metatarsal left foot
ChooChin / Getty Images

What Are Jones Fracture Causes?

Jones fractures may be caused by a specific traumatic event or a chronic overuse situation. When they occur traumatically, it's usually the result of an inversion-type sprain, which is one where the foot is turned inward towards the other foot. This is the same type of injury that can cause an ankle fracture.

When Jones fractures occur from a chronic problem, they tend to be the result of repetitive overuse injuries that may slowly crack the bone or weaken it to a state where a traumatic acute break can occur.

What Are Risk Factors?

Risk factors for a Jones fracture include:

  • Participating in activities where you may experience sudden injuries, such as sports
  • Engaging in activities that involve long-term, low grade stress on the outside parts of your feet
  • Playing sports that involve a lot of pivoting movement, like basketball
  • General foot posture and having high arched feet

Prevention

For individuals who have an increased risk of getting a Jones fracture, there are a few ways to help prevent this injury. These include:

  • Having an awareness of your increased risk may help you be more mindful of your general posture and movement
  • Wearing corrective orthodics, which are medical devices worn inside of your shoes that help with foot concerns
  • Wearing braces that protect the front, outer part of your feet

Diagnosing a Jones Foot Fracture

To diagnose a Jones fracture, your healthcare provider:

  • Will ask you questions about your pain and the injury in general
  • Will examine your foot visually and may press on certain parts of it
  • May order an imaging technique like an X-ray, which is also called radiography
  • May order other imaging techniques like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) scans to monitor the injury and how it's healing

Jones Fracture Treatment

Jones fractures generally are difficult to heal because the fracture occurs in an area within the bone where there is decreased blood supply. Treatment of Jones fractures may be with casting and/or surgery.

The treatment plan often depends on the individual's age, activity level, overall medical health, and type of Jones fracture. Either way, bone healing takes around eight weeks.

Will a Jones Fracture Heal Without Surgery?

In some cases, a Jones fracture can heal without surgery. Studies suggest that non-surgical treatment methods work successfully between 77% and 93% of the time depending on the exact fracture location.

  • Individuals that are treated without surgery are generally immobilized with a solid cast that starts below the knee and extends to the toes for a period of six to eight weeks.
  • Others may be able to use non-weight bearing medical boots.

Healthcare providers usually advise crutches until bone healing is seen on the X-ray, or other imaging technique. Jones fractures are notorious for delayed healing, and the process of immobilization can extend three or more months in some cases.

If the bone doesn't heal within six weeks, surgery may be necessary.

Jones Fracture Surgery

In most cases, surgery is often needed to heal a Jones fracture.

Surgery methods tend to heal Jones fractures faster than non-surgical methods. Studies suggest that surgery methods work successfully between 95% and 96% of the time.

  • The most common method for surgery involves placing a single surgical bone screw to hold the bone fragments together. This screw starts at the tip of the bone and is inserted into the inner canal of the metatarsal bone.
  • Plantar plate fixation may also be used. This involves surgically placing a plate that contours over the injury. This is one of the fastest ways to heal a Jones fracture.

Research suggests that surgery may reduce healing time by 50%, which may be especially important for athletes.

Complications

Possible complications of a Jones fracture may include:

  • Surgery related risks such as infection, nerve and blood vessel damage, and bleeding
  • Risks due to anesthesia, or what is used to make you unconscious and reduce pain during surgery
  • Risk of re-injury, which occurs more often with non-surgical treatment methods
  • Screw or plate failure that may irritate the soft tissues of the foot
  • Long-term pain

Outlook

The majority of individuals have good outcomes whether treated surgically or non-surgically. Most individuals are able to return gradually to normal activity within about six weeks. However, for some this may take several months.

Jones Fracture Recovery

Healing time for a Jones fracture can take about eight weeks with or without surgery. The challenge with Jones fractures is that the fracture occurs within a segment of bone that is considered less vascular, which ultimately means prolonged healing times.

Surgery, by placing the screw, is thought to help the bone heal in approximately six weeks. 

Additionally, some surgeons allow for protected walking after surgery for Jones fractures. When treated without surgery, the bone healing may extend beyond six weeks and may take three months or more. Some healthcare providers have recommended bone healing devices, called bone stimulators, for these fractures as a preemptive strike to try and thwart delayed healing.

Jones fracture recovery tips to keep in mind:

  • Follow medication instructions if your healthcare provider has prescribed you painkillers
  • Be sure to use your crutches as instructed and follow instructions regarding cast care
  • See a physical therapist if your healthcare provider has suggested that you do so, as they can give you helpful exercises to rebuild your strength

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can a Jones fracture heal without surgery?

    Yes. In some cases, a Jones fracture can heal without surgery. Your healthcare provider may immobilize your foot with a cast or boot.

  • Can you still walk with a Jones fracture?

    Yes. But, it may be difficult or painful to do so. Follow your healthcare provider's instructions on how to walk safely while allowing your fracture to heal.

  • How long does Jones fracture recovery take?

    Recovery takes around eight weeks whether or not you've had surgery. You may need physical therapy after your foot has healed.

  • How serious is a Jones fracture?

    A Jones fracture may heal slowly because of its location. However, not all Jones fractures require surgery and most individuals recover within eight weeks.

10 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Neal Blitz, DPM, FACFAS
 Neal Blitz, DPM, FACFAS, is a board-certified doctor of podiatric medicine and creator of the Bunionplasty procedure.