A stress fracture is an incomplete break or crack in the bone due to repetitive stress. Stress fractures in the foot are most commonly caused by overuse. Running on a hard surface, increasing speed, duration and intensity of training abruptly and over-training are all common causes in athletes. Running in poor quality shoes can also cause stress fractures. Athletes are not the only ones susceptible to stress fractures. Anyone who increases the time on their feet abruptly in combination with wearing a shoe which lacks support can develop a stress fracture. Most people cannot remember a specific event or injury, but may have changed shoes recently or started a new job which requires more time on the feet. When the amount of standing or walking increases or the walking surface changes, the chances of developing a stress fracture increase. The most common symptoms are acute onset of pain and swelling on the top of the foot. Bruising may be apparent as well. The pain is sharp with walking and typically relieved with rest. In the foot, stress fractures occur in the lesser metatarsal bones in the foot. The 2nd metatarsal, as shown in the X-ray above, is the one of the most commonly affected bones in the foot. Stress fractures may not immediately show up on X-ray. The treatment varies on the area of the foot affected and can range from 4 weeks in a rigid (surgical shoe) to 6-8 weeks in a cast with crutches.
Some tips to help prevent stress fractures:
Increase activity gradually when starting a new exercise program. Slowly increase duration and intensity of the training.
Wear supportive shoes specific for your sport or job. Tips for choosing shoes.
Eat a healthy, well rounded diet with foods rich in calcium & vitamin D.
Cross train by incorporating non-impact activities such as swimming and cycling.
If you develop foot pain or swelling, stop the activity immediately and rest for 2-3 days.