Brief Outline of Stress Fracture to the Foot

Stress fractures in the foot are usually a result of repetitive impact to the bones of the feet. Running or jumping on hard surfaces, changing the duration or distance of workouts too quickly, or fatigued muscles that can no longer absorb shock can lead to small cracks in the bone. The small cracks accumulate and become a stress fracture.

Anatomy and physiology

A stress fracture can occur in any of the bones of the foot but are generally seen in the metatarsals. The heel bone, or calcaneus, can also become fractured with improper footwear or as the result of an old injury that has gone untreated. The bones subjected to repetitive trauma develop minor cracks and then these cracks build on each other leading to a stress fracture. A weak point in the bone from a previous injury or due to bone rebuilding can lead to stress fractures under normal stress conditions.

Cause of Stress Fracture to the Foot

Repetitive trauma to the bones of the foot. Weakened area of bone due to previous injury or other condition. Muscle fatigue, making the muscles ineffective shock absorbers.

Signs and symptoms

Pain at the site of the fracture. Pain with weight bearing, with inability to walk in severe cases. Swelling may be noted over the fracture site. Some loss of foot function may be noted.

Complications if left unattended

More serious stress fracture including a complete break in the bone may occur if left unattended. Swelling and inflammation may cause blood flow and nerve problems in the foot. Pain may increase to the point of disability and inability to walk.


  • R.I.C.E
  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Observe and monitor
  • See a doctor if not better

Rehabilitation and prevention

Strengthening of the muscles that support the foot will help to lessen the impact on the foot, with stronger muscles absorbing more shock. A gradual start to activity after the injury has healed is important to prevent recurrence. Proper footwear, correct warm-up techniques, avoiding hard running surfaces and a diet with calcium-rich foods will help prevent stress fractures in the foot.

Long-term prognosis

Stress fractures will usually heal completely and have no lingering effects if rest and rehabilitation are used. The fracture site should heal to become stronger than it was originally. Only in severe cases where the bone fractures completely and does not respond to rest and immobilisation, will surgery be required.

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