Stress Fracture

A stress fracture is a small crack or severe bruising within a bone and is mostly caused by overuse and repetitive activities. Runners and athletes who participate in running sports such as basketball and soccer are more prone to have this kind of foot problem.

The weight-bearing bones of the foot and lower leg are especially vulnerable to Stress Fracture because of the repetitive forces they must absorb during activities like walking, running, and jumping. The most common locations of Stress Fracture are the second and third metatarsals of the foot, which are thinner (and often longer) than the adjacent first metatarsal (big toe). This is the area of greatest impact on your foot as you push off when you walk or run.

Stress fractures are also common in the calcaneus (heel); fibula (the outer bone of the lower leg and ankle); talus (a small bone in the ankle joint); and the navicular (a bone on the top of the midfoot).


When bones are involved in a new activity that can cause stress, such as a new exercise routine, they may have trouble adjusting. This can cause them to crack.

Other causes of Stress Fracture include the following:

  • Overtraining or overuse
  • Improper training habits or surfaces
  • Repetitive activity in certain high-impact sports, such as long-distance running, basketball, tennis, track and field, gymnastics, and dance
  • Improper footwear (shoes that are too worn out, too flimsy, or too stiff)
  • Foot problems, such as bunions, blisters, or tendonitis, that can affect the way the foot strikes the ground
  • Osteoporosis or other diseases that weaken bone strength and density (thickness). The weak or soft bones may not be able to handle the changes in activity. Female athletes who have irregular menstrual periods, or no periods, may also have lower bone density.
  • Low vitamin D levels.


The most common symptoms for stress fracture in the foot is pain which usually develops gradually and worsens during weight-bearing activities. Other symptoms may include:

  • Weakness in the area where the break is located
  • Tenderness at the site of the fracture when it is touched
  • Swelling on top of the foot or in the ankle
  • Possible bruising

Potential Treatments

During a patient’s first visit to the doctor, the doctor will want to have a full understanding of the patient’s risk factors for stress fractures. The patient will be asked about his or her medical history, work, activities, and the medications he or she is taking.

The doctor will examine the patient’s foot and ankle and may then schedule a follow-up appointment for further testing. These include x-ray, bone scan and MRI.

If you think you are showing similar symptoms as mentioned above or suspect a stress fracture in your foot, take the time to visit your doctor. These tiny breaks in the bones of the feet can lead to a complete break if left untreated. Contact a doctor for more information.

Disclaimer: The Relief Institute has made reasonable efforts to present accurate information on this website; however, it is possible that information found on this website could potentially be out-of-date or limited in nature. Any medical and health-related information presented on this website is general in nature. The Relief Institute does not furnish or render professional health care services or medical care. Therefore, the information presented on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, nor is it intended to provide you with a specific diagnosis or treatment for a specific ailment. The information is made available to you for educational and informational purposes and does not constitute the practice of medicine and/or as a substitute for consultation with your personal health care provider. Click here to view our full disclaimer.