Types of Foot Stress Fractures

What Is a Stress Fracture?

A stress fracture, as the name suggests, is a tiny crack in a bone that is caused by continued application of stress or overuse of a foot.

Repeated jumping and long-distance running could be some of the causes of stress fractures.

The symptoms are swelling and prolonged pain that worsens over time.

Treatment includes reducing the pressure borne by the foot by using walking aids like boots, crutches, and braces.

We can consider stress fractures as overuse injuries of bones. Bones constantly change, respond to load placed on them, and repair themselves through a turnover of cells. When a bone is used more often, more calcium is deposited on that site. The reverse is also true. When the stress applied on a bone overwhelms its ability to repair itself, fractures may develop on the bone structure.

This condition is most prevalent in the pelvis, foot, and leg bones. Activities like running, walking, and jumping create forces which these bones must bear. Each step generates up to twelve times of the body weight. The bones, joints, ligaments, and muscles usually play the role of cushioning the body against this weight.

Stress fractures mostly occur among people who try to change their activities, for example, trying new exercise, changing the normal workout surface, or suddenly increasing the intensity of a workout. Additionally, osteoporosis can weaken the bones thus making them fragile even when carrying out normal activities like walking. Other factors like your diet and training regimen can also increase your risk for this condition.

Bone Insufficiency

Conditions like osteoporosis increase and other long-term medication decrease your bone strength and density, thus exposing you to the risk of experiencing stress fracture. When bones are weak, they can crack even when you are performing normal daily activities. For instance, this condition mostly affects people during winter when the supply of vitamin D is reduced.

Studies reveal that female athletes experience stress fractures more than male ones. This could be a result of reduced bone density among ladies due to a condition called the ‘female athlete triad.’ Ladies may develop three interrelated problems when they go to extremes of exercise of diet. These conditions are menstrual dysfunction, eating disorders, and premature osteoporosis. As her bone mass decreases, the probability of suffering from stress fractures increases.

Poor Conditioning

When people start a program, some tend to do too much at an early stage. It is also common among experienced people too. For example, runners don’t do much exercise during winter. When the season ends, they resume their exercise at the rate they were doing so in the previous season instead of starting slowly. Additionally, athletes tend to push their bodies beyond what they can manage at the moment by pushing through all forms of discomfort and depriving it of an opportunity to recover. Doing this can also cause the occurrence of stress fractures.

Improper Technique

Any condition that changes the way you bear weight on your foot can significantly increase your chances of stress fractures. These conditions include having blisters or tendinosis. They make you put more weight on one side of the foot, thus creating more pressure there.

Change in Surface

Changing your training ground can increase your risk for this condition. For example, changing from a grass lawn to a hard court in tennis, and changing from running on a treadmill to a track.


Worn out shoes that have lost their shock absorbing ability may also contribute to stress fractures.

Repetitive force may cause microscopic fractures within the metatarsal heads. Over time, these fractures develop into larger cracks. The metatarsal heads are the most affected bones.

Foot or ankle pains are among the common symptoms of this condition. The pain develops slowly and becomes worse when the patient is bearing weight. Other symptoms are:

  • The site becomes tender to touch.
  • Pain that reduces when one rests.
  • Swelling outside the ankle or at the top of the foot.
  • Possible bruising.
  • Pain that increases when carrying out physical activities.

The condition can be treated by reducing the amount of weight borne by the foot using crutches, braces, or walking boots. Avoid any high impact activity until the foot recovers completely to avoid slowing down the healing process and complete fractures which will take much longer to heal. Contact us on 03 9077 5915 for further assessment and treatment.