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Stress Fractures of the Foot & Ankle

What is a Stress Fracture of the Foot or Ankle?

Stress fractures are tiny, hairline breaks that can occur in the bones of the foot or ankle. They occur from small, repetitive stresses that eventually fatigue the bone. These tiny breaks can ultimately lead to a complete break if left untreated. 

Causes:

foot and ankle xrayStress fractures can be caused by over-training or overuse, improper training habits our surfaces, improper shoes, flat feet or other foot deformities, and even osteoporosis. 

  • Flat feet or high arched feet
  • Poor training conditions, improper diet or over-training
  • Systemic conditions that lead to bone diseases

Symptoms

Patients with stress fractures of the foot or ankle experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Bruising

The symptoms usually occur on the top of the foot, continue to get worse with activities, and improve with rest. The stress fracture can occur in any bones of the foot or the ankle, but are especially common in the second metatarsal and fifth metatarsal, as well as the tibia.

Diagnosis

The foot and ankle doctor will examine your foot and ankle and explore pertinent medical issues that can predispose patients to stress fractures. An X-ray is normally sufficient, but in some cases an MRI, CT, or bone scan to evaluate the stress fracture may be helpful.

Non-Surgical Treatment

A variety of treatment options, often used in combination, are available to stress fractures of the foot and ankle. These include:

  • Rest. Staying off the foot prevents further injury and encourages healing.
  • Nutritional supplements. Our clinic has one of the most advanced supplements available for nutritional support of stress fractures. 
  • Immobilization. Restricting movement of the foot by wearing a cast or cast boot is sometimes necessary to enable the bone to heal.
  • Custom orthotic devices. Custom shoe inserts may be prescribed to help maintain the arch and limit excessive motion or pressure that caused the stress fracture.
  • Bracing. Patients can find relief with specific braces.

When is Surgery Needed?

Sometimes surgery is the best option for treating non-healing or repetitive stress fractures. The foot and ankle surgeon will determine if surgery is necessary and will select the appropriate procedure or procedures based on the cause of the condition. Often times, bone grafting and internal fixation of the stress fracture is performed.