How to Treat a Foot Stress Fracture

A sudden, sharp injury can certainly cause a broken bone in your foot, but did you know that repeated force on a bone or group of bones can cause them to sustain hairline cracks called stress fractures? Once this condition is discovered you'll want to take steps to treat it as soon as possible.

Most stress fractures occur in the metatarsal bones, which are the bones in the front of the foot that attach to your toes. Weakened muscles can exert enough pressure on foot bones to cause a stress fracture, and so can gaining a lot of weight over a short period of time.

If you sustain a stress fracture, you'll feel a nagging pain as you walk or run, and the area will also hurt if you press on it from above or below with your finger. Because stress fractures are so slight, they heal on their own. But while that process is occurring -- and it can take weeks -- you may have to put a halt to sports or exercise routines. To keep up your fitness level, temporarily substitute another fitness activity that doesn't put pressure on the feet, such as swimming. For relief from pain, apply ice packs to the area and take aspirin or ibuprofen.

To prevent stress fractures, wear shoes that provide sufficient padding and support when you walk, run, dance, or perform any other activities that stress the bones of the foot. Another precaution is to do such activities on surfaces that "give" (in other words, surfaces that are not inflexible like concrete), such as packed dirt, sand, or rubber matting, as this lessens the sharpness of the impact on foot bones every time you step, stride, or bounce.

The stronger your bones are, the less likely you are to suffer from stress fractures. So make sure you get plenty of calcium and vitamin D (which helps the body assimilate the calcium) in your diet. Vitamin D can be obtained from fortified milk or by getting 20 minutes of sunshine three times a week. If you're a woman past menopause, talk to your doctor about taking calcium supplements and beginning estrogen-replacement therapy. Orthotic therapy may also be indicated.

Although the bones, tendons and internal structures of your feet are important to protect, there's another component that also needs some attention: the skin. Get tips on what to do with feet that are sunburned or frostbitten in the next section.

To learn more about treating and avoiding problems with your feet, visit:

  • Everyday Foot Problems: Discover what causes some of the most commonly encountered foot problems, as well as how to treat or avoid them.
  • How to Care for Your Feet: Learn how to keep your feet -- and yourself -- healthy and happy with these tips on caring for your feet, including selecting the right shoes.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.