A 5th metatarsal fracture can be either a stress fracture or a result of trauma. Regardless of what caused it, it’s in an awkward place and can be painful and uncomfortable even when doing normal things like standing or walking.
Learning how to tape for a 5th metatarsal fracture can help to improve your pain and keep your foot stable. It’s easy to do if you know how to do it, and can significantly help facilitate healing.
Let’s have a look at what causes a 5th metatarsal fracture, some symptoms and treatments, and how to tape for a 5th metatarsal fracture effectively.
What Is a 5th Metatarsal Fracture?
A 5th metatarsal fracture is a common foot injury. It’s when the long bone in the foot leading up to the 5th toe—metatarsal—develops a crack or break.
There are four different types of a 5th metatarsal fracture, depending on where along this bone the fracture is situated. Your fracture may be a:
- Head/neck fracture—at the end of the bone closest to the toe
- Avulsion fracture—most common, along the bone closest to the ankle
- Jones fracture—difficult to heal, at the metaphyseal-diaphyseal junction
- Dancer’s fracture—diagonal fracture along the middle of the metatarsal bone
The symptoms depend on where the fracture has occurred. However, common symptoms across every type of fracture include pain in the area of the fracture, bruising, swelling, tenderness, redness, and discomfort when walking.
Metatarsal stress fractures are caused by repetitive motion, such as pressure on the metatarsals when jumping or running.
Trauma fractures can be caused by twisting your ankle—which places excess strain on the outer edge of the foot—or a blow to the foot.
People with high arches are more susceptible to trauma and stress fractures as the way they walk naturally places extra strain on the outer edge of the foot.
Those who are overweight are also at a higher risk of developing a 5th metatarsal fracture as carrying extra weight on your frame may place pressure on the metatarsals.
In severe cases, a 5th metatarsal fracture may require surgery. But in many cases, your doctor may simply recommend that you rest your foot for 6 to 8 weeks until it’s healed.
Whether you have surgery or not, treating a 5th metatarsal fracture effectively at home is essential. The first thing you should do is apply the RICE principle.
Rest your foot as often as you can and make sure to avoid high-impact activity. If you can, use an ankle brace or moon boot to keep your foot stable and prevent it from rolling when you walk.
You should perform strength and stretching exercises to improve foot strength and keep the muscles loose. This will help stabilize the area of the fracture.
Your doctor or physiotherapist will be able to give you effective exercises that you can easily do at home.
Surgery is a last resort and your doctor will recommend it if your pain continues to worsen with non-surgical treatments.
Why Should You Tape a 5th Metatarsal Fracture?
Taping a 5th metatarsal fracture is an effective way of both stabilizing the bones and providing pain relief.
If you can tape for a 5th metatarsal fracture, it helps with light stabilization while not compromising your foot’s range of motion. It’s more comfortable than wearing an ankle brace and can fit easily into a shoe.
The light compressive pressure on the painful part of the foot may also help to ease pain and encourage healing, as it increases blood flow to the injury site.
It helps to provide support and protection if you have to be on your feet during the day and aren’t able to rest your feet entirely.
However, you should note that taping a 5th metatarsal fracture doesn’t mean you can continue to do high-impact activities like running. You will still need to rest your feet and take measures to ensure that your foot recovers properly.
You should use taping as a recovery tool as part of a home treatment program and not as a standalone treatment.
How to Tape for a 5th Metatarsal Fracture
Learning how to tape for a 5th metatarsal fracture is a valuable skill to have. Here’s how to do it effectively.
Make sure that your foot is clean before applying athletic tape or kinesiology tape. You can clean your foot with rubbing alcohol; it will help to dry your skin so the tape can stick properly.
Allow your foot to relax completely, like hanging over the edge of a bed. There should be no flex in the muscles when you apply the tape.
Cut a 5-inch piece of tape. Break the adhesive backing in two places—about an inch away from either end. Pull the middle piece off so you have the sticky backing exposed.
Hold the tape on either end where the backing is still attached. You want to apply about 5 to 10% tension on the tape, which means stretching it slightly as you hold it.
Then place the sticky area down along the outside of your foot. The top edge should be just underneath your toes and the bottom edge should run closer to your ankle.
Rub the middle section so that it adheres tightly to your foot. It should wrap down underneath the foot very slightly and also up onto the top of your foot. The ends should still be loose.
All you need to do next is remove the backing on either end and stick it down. You should not stretch the end pieces at all, simply lay them down without tension so they stick to your skin.
Tips for Using Tape
If you’re new to taping, here are some tips to help you get the most out of this useful treatment method.
Test for Allergic Reactions
It’s a good idea to test the tape to make sure you don’t have a bad reaction before applying a whole strip of tape.
Cut a small piece and place it on your skin where you can monitor it—like your forearm. Leave it on for about 15 to 20 minutes.
If you develop redness, skin welts, or itchiness, you should not continue to use the tape. Instead, find another tape that your skin has no reaction to.
Round the Corners
Instead of sticking the tape down with its normal pointed corners, use a pair of scissors to round the corners before removing the backing. This will help to prevent the corners lifting when you pull your socks on and off or slide your feet into your shoes.
Re-Tape Every 3 Days
While you can safely leave tape on for up to a week in some cases, we advise removing it every 3 days and washing your foot properly before retaping it. This allows your skin to breathe for a bit before being taped again.
Who Shouldn’t Tape Their Feet?
You should avoid taping your feet if you have open wounds—or wounds in the process of healing—in the area that needs to be taped.
You should also be extra careful with tape if you have circulation problems. Using tape may worsen poor circulation in some cases.
If you have sensitive skin, you should test various types of tape until you find one that’s safe for your skin.