Ankle fractures occur when one or more of the bones that make up your ankle break. This can cause symptoms such as pain, bruising, tenderness, swelling, weakness, numbness, and difficulty putting weight on your ankle or walking. Ankle fractures may be treated with support devices, such as a brace or cast, that immobilize and protect the affected ankle to encourage healing. If you have a cast or brace, you may need to walk with crutches for a period of time. The pain of an ankle fracture can be relieved through over-the-counter medications that your podiatrist recommends. A broken ankle may need to be treated surgically to ensure the best possible outcome for more serious fractures. If you have a broken bone, it is suggested that you seek the care of a podiatrist. 

Broken ankles need immediate treatment. If you are seeking treatment, contact one of our podiatrists from Northern Illinois Foot & Ankle Specialists. Our doctors can provide the care you need to keep you pain-free and on your feet. 

Broken Ankles

A broken ankle is experienced when a person fractures their tibia or fibula in the lower leg and ankle area. Both of these ankle bones are attached at the bottom of the leg and combine to form what we know to be our ankle.

When a physician refers to an injured ankle, he or she usually refers to a break in the area where the tibia and fibula are joined to create the ankle joint. Ankles are more prone to fractures because they are an area that suffers a lot of pressure and stress. There are some obvious signs when a person experiences a fractured ankle, and the following symptoms may be present.

Types Of Ankle Fractures

There are several different types of ankle fractures, each affecting specific parts of the ankle. The ankle is a complex joint composed of three bones: the tibia (shinbone), fibula (smaller bone on the outer side), and talus (connecting bone with the foot). 

Here are the various types of ankle fractures:

  • Lateral malleolus fractures: This type of fracture occurs when the bony prominence on the outer side of the ankle (lateral malleolus) is broken. It is the most common type of ankle fracture.
  • Medial malleolus fracture: This fracture involves the bony prominence on the inner side of the ankle (medial malleolus), which is part of the tibia.
  • Bimalleolar ankle fracture: In this case, both the lateral malleolus and the medial malleolus are fractured.
  • Posterior malleolus fracture: This specific type of ankle fracture involves the posterior malleolus, a bony prominence at the back of the tibia. It often occurs in conjunction with other ankle fractures and may require special consideration during treatment.
  • Trimalleolar fracture: This is a more severe fracture where all three malleoli (lateral, medial, and posterior) are broken. The posterior malleolus is a bony prominence at the back of the tibia.
  • Pilon fracture: This type of fracture occurs at the bottom of the tibia, specifically where it connects to the talus bone. Pilon fractures can be complex and often require specialized treatment.
  • Maisonneuve fracture: This fracture involves a high ankle sprain combined with a break in the upper part of the fibula, near the knee. It is an uncommon but significant injury.
  • Syndesmotic injury: This type of injury affects the syndesmosis joint, which is the area between the tibia and fibula held together by ligaments. It may involve a fracture in the tibia or fibula along with ligament damage in the syndesmosis joint.

Symptoms of a Fractured Ankle

  • Excessive pain when the area is touched or when any pressure is placed on the ankle
  •  Swelling around the area
  •  Bruising of the area
  • The area appears to be deformed

If you suspect an ankle fracture, it is recommended to seek treatment as soon as possible. The sooner you have your podiatrist diagnose the fracture, the quicker you’ll be on the way towards recovery.

Treatments For Fractured Ankle

Treatment for a broken ankle can vary depending on the specific circumstances of the fracture. Here are some common treatment options:


An initial X-ray is typically performed to assess the extent of the ankle fracture and determine the appropriate course of treatment.

Non-Surgical Treatments

  • Immobilization: For minor fractures, a special boot or a plaster cast may be used to provide support and immobilize the ankle, allowing the bones to heal.
  • Closed Reduction: In some cases, a doctor may manipulate the bones back into their proper position without surgery. This procedure is known as closed reduction and is often performed under local anesthesia or sedation.

Surgical Treatments

  • Open Reduction Internal Fixation (ORIF): If the fracture is severe or unstable, surgery may be required. During an ORIF procedure, the broken bones are realigned and held together using metal screws, plates, or rods.
  • External Fixation: In certain complex fractures, external fixation may be employed. A frame outside the body is attached to the affected bones using wires or pins to stabilize the fracture during the healing process.

Follow-up Care

After the initial treatment, follow-up appointments will be scheduled to monitor the ankle's healing progress. This may include regular X-rays and consultations with healthcare professionals to ensure proper recovery.


Over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen (Tylenol) may be recommended to manage pain during the healing process.


Once the bone has healed, physical therapy can help improve flexibility, balance, and strength in the ankles and feet. A physical therapist can provide exercises and techniques to aid in rehabilitation.

We Prioritize Your Foot And Ankle Health

For expert care and treatment of broken ankles, you can rely on the skilled professionals at Northern Illinois Foot & Ankle Specialists. Our team of experienced podiatrists utilizes the latest diagnostic and treatment technologies to provide comprehensive foot and ankle care. With convenient office locations in Lake in the Hills, Cary, Fox Lake, Crystal Lake, Hoffman Estates, Chicago, Elgin, and Hinsdale, IL, we are committed to helping you recover and regain your quality of life.

If you have any questions or need treatment for a broken ankle, don't hesitate to reach out to our offices and schedule an appointment. Contact us today and take the first step toward a speedy recovery.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I walk with a broken ankle?

In most cases, walking with a broken ankle is not recommended. Immobilization through a cast, boot, or other support device is typically necessary to allow the bone to heal properly. Your healthcare provider will provide guidance on weight-bearing restrictions and the use of crutches during the recovery period.

How can I prevent future ankle fractures?

Proper foot and ankle care can reduce the risk of future ankle fractures. This includes wearing appropriate footwear, exercising caution when walking on uneven surfaces, maintaining strong and flexible leg muscles, and participating in activities that improve balance and coordination.

Can all broken bones be treated without surgery?

While many broken bones can heal without the need for surgery, some fractures, especially complex or displaced ones, may require surgical intervention to ensure proper alignment and healing. Your healthcare provider will assess the specific characteristics of your fracture to determine the most appropriate treatment approach.

What factors determine the need for ankle fracture surgery?

The decision for ankle fracture surgery depends on various factors, including the type and location of the fracture, the degree of displacement, the stability of the fracture, and the overall health and lifestyle of the patient. Your healthcare provider will evaluate these factors to determine if surgical intervention is necessary.

Are most ankle fractures caused by accidents or trauma?

Yes, most ankle fractures occur as a result of accidents or trauma, such as falls, sports injuries, or motor vehicle collisions. The force applied to the ankle during these incidents can cause the bones to break or fracture.

IS displaced lateral malleolus fracture more severe than other types of ankle fractures?

Displaced lateral malleolus fractures can be more severe compared to some other types of ankle fractures, particularly if the fractured ends of the fibula bone are significantly misaligned. However, the severity of any fracture depends on various factors, and it's important to consult with a healthcare provider to assess the specific nature of your ankle fracture.

How do bones heal after a fracture?

After a fracture, the body initiates a natural healing process. Initially, a blood clot forms at the fracture site, followed by the formation of soft callus tissue made up of collagen. Over time, this callus is replaced by hard bone tissue through a process called remodeling. The complete healing of a fractured bone can take several weeks to months.