Are you experiencing pain in the top of your foot that is worse in one spot? When you press on that spot, does the pain become much more pronounced? If you're an athlete or you otherwise spend a lot of time walking or running, you probably have a metatarsal stress fracture. This is a fracture in one of your metatarsal bones, which are the bones that run along the top of your foot. Here's what you need to know about this condition.
What causes metatarsal stress fractures?
Metatarsal stress fractures are caused by repeated stress on the top of the foot, such as that which occurs when you're running, jumping, or even walking. Some people are more prone to them than others due to their foot anatomy. If you have low arches, for example, you'll be more prone to stress fractures because your arch won't absorb as much of the shock as you walk.
Wearing shoes without enough padding and cushioning can also contribute to stress fracture formation. Many runners, in fact, develop stress fractures when they switch from a standard running shoe to a "minimalist" or "barefoot" shoe with less cushioning. If you make the transition too quickly and don't give the muscles and ligaments in your foot enough time to adapt, it will put extra strain on your bones and lead to a fracture.
What can you do for a metatarsal stress fracture?
The first thing you should do is stop running or partaking in other physical activity -- this will just make matters worse. Make an appointment with a foot doctor at a clinic like Mid Nebraska Foot Clinic, who will x-ray your foot and confirm the diagnosis. If you are diagnosed with a stress fracture, you'll likely be told to take at least 6 weeks off from running and other weight-bearing physical activity. If staying in shape is a priority, you can swim or cycle for cardiovascular fitness.
Applying ice to the top of your foot will help ease the inflammation and speed healing. Depending on the severity of your fracture, your doctor may or may not have you wear a soft cast or boot for some extra protection as your foot heals.
How can you guard against future metatarsal stress fractures?
To ensure this does not happen to you again, always replace your shoes before they become too compact and non-cushioned. Avoid walking long distances in shoes that lack support, and if you are a runner or athlete, increase your training volume slowly so you're not putting too much strain on your bones.