Ways To Tell If You Broke Or Sprained Your Ankle

If you hurt your ankle, it's easy to assume that it's a sprain. However, it may not be a sprain. You may have broken your foot. What are some ways that you can tell whether or not it's broken or sprained?


A sprain is a soft tissue injury. It happens when you overextend or tear one of the ligaments in the joint. Ligaments are a fibrous type of muscle that are designed to hold your bones and joints together. You can sprain any of your joints. Generally, you can sprain your ankle by doing things like stepping funny and rolling your ankle. 


A broken bone is rather self-explanatory. There are different kinds of breaks. You can have a fracture, which may or may not be completely broken. Then you can get a simple break, which means that the bone is broken but isn't displaced. A compound fracture means that the bone has been displaced and it may even be sticking out through your skin. 

Telling the Difference

Really, the best way to find out if you have a sprain or a break is to go to the hospital and have an x-ray done. The doctor can tell you if you have broken your ankle or just sprained it. If you break your ankle, the ER doctor may recommend you go to see a specialist so that they can take care of your ankle so it heals correctly. However, there are some ways that you may be able to tell if you sprained your ankle or broke it. 

  • Sound: One way that you can tell is a sprain and a break can make different sounds when they happen. You may not hear anything because not every injury makes a noise, but you may have heard something. Generally, if you did ligament damage or sprained your ankle, you would hear a popping noise. A break would cause a sound that sounds like a crack. 
  • Pain: Another way that you may be able to tell whether your broke or sprained your ankle is where the pain is centered. If the pain seems to be more around the soft tissue of your foot but near the bones, you probably sprained your ankle. Pain that is centered more around the joint or bone is probably a sign that you broke your foot. 

Telling the difference between a broken ankle and sprained ankle can be difficult, but it can be done. For more information or to seek care, talk with a doctor like Jeffrey M Marks DPM.