Florida Foot Specialists

photo of a soccer player wearing all red lying on the ground with his hand over his eyes as he grasps his left ankle in pain.

Foot and Ankle Stress Fractures – Treatment and Prevention

What do people who jog, basketball players, dancers, gymnasts, and tennis players have in common?

All of them are at an increased risk of foot and ankle stress fractures.

What Is A Stress Fracture?

A stress fracture is caused by a small crack in the bone.

Overuse is the most common reason they develop: high-impact sports contribute to the fractures, as do running and basketball. Also, people with osteoporosis or other diseases that weaken bones can develop a stress fracture from performing everyday activities.

When the muscles of the foot and/or ankle are over-tired, they have a harder time absorbing the shock of repeated impacts.

When they are fatigued enough, the muscles begin transferring the stress of the impact to the bones of the foot or ankle: this is when stress fractures can occur.

black and white skeletal image of a foot with red coloring indicating foot metatarsals.

The most common areas for foot and ankle stress fractures are the second and third metatarsals of the foot and in the heel.

Other common places for stress fracture are the outer bone of the lower leg (the fibula), and a bone on the top of the midfoot called the navicular.

Improper sports equipment, such as shoes that are too worn or stiff, can also contribute to stress fractures.

Foot and Ankle Stress Fracture Symptoms

  • Pain that develops gradually, increases with weight-bearing activity, and diminishes with rest
  • Pain that becomes more severe and occurs during normal, daily activities
  • Swelling on the top of the foot or the outside of the ankle
  • Tenderness to touch at the site of the fracture
  • Possible bruising

Treatment of Foot and Ankle Stress Fractures

  • Stop the activity and rest if you suspect a stress fracture.
  • Apply ice to the injured area 3-4 times a day for 10 minutes each time, and elevate your foot or leg.
  • Try not to put weight on the injured leg until you have seen a doctor.
  • Rest approximately 6-8 weeks from the activity that caused the injury. Do non-aeorbic exercise, such as swimming or cycling until the injury has healed.
  • Your doctor may recommend protective footwear to reduce stress on your leg or your foot until it has healed. A full contact orthotic is used to treat stress fractures, as it supports the metatarsals better than a weight bearing cast.
  • In some cases, you may need to have a cast applied or may need surgery to heal properly.

Prevention of Stress Fractures

  • Don’t wear old or worn-out running shoes. Use ICON Full Contact Orthotics that match your arch exactly, and immediately control the movement of your foot to give you the most
    amount of support and correction. A full contact orthotic is the only device that fully supports the metatarsals the instant weight bearing begins.
  • Alternate your activities (example: alternate swimming with jogging) so you don’t cause a repetitive stress injury.
  • Gradually increase time, speed, and distance when starting a new sport; a 10% increase per week is fine.
  • Strength training can help prevent early muscle fatigue and the loss of bone density that comes with aging.
  • Stop the activity if pain or swelling comes back. If pain continues for a few days after resting, see your doctor.