Stress fracture, does it ever go away?!

Hi all, looking for some advice. I was a bit stupid and did a 9+ mile run after a two week holiday where "a big walk" was 4 miles. Did it end of the april in the floods on rocky ground and hurt my foot.

Continued and it got worse so went to the doc mid-May and was told it's either a stress fracture (4th metatarsal) or possibly some tendon problem. Either way 4-6 weeks to recover.

I had a 10k mid-June so did two weeks aqua work and then two weeks with cut mileage (~15 miles, normally 25-30)  and survived it tho it ached. Ache got worse a few days later so took an entire month off, limiting walking to/from car...

Done four runs since, 3 days between each, 3.2-3.6 miles and today (ran yesterday early) it's aching quite a bit especially when I flex my toes like before.

Surely by now it should have healed though? Driving me nuts when I'm used to running 3-4 times a week and haven't been able to properly train since April.

Should I give up all hope of a mid-Oct half? Should I cancel tomorrow's 5:30am run? How long does it need? image


  • JoolskaJoolska ✭✭✭

    I'd be surprised if it is a stress fracture if you've been able to run on it, but the only way of getting a conclusive diagnosis is to go to your GP and get a referral for a scan or x-ray (preferably a scan).  You may also need a referral for physio to work out what the underlying cause of the problem is (whether it's a stress fracture or a tendon issue).  If it's been a problem since April and rest hasn't resolved issues then you need to be careful and focus on fixing the current problem before setting future targets.

  • Yeah, the GP reckoned it'd be about 5 months to get an MRI on it and an x-ray only shows up the issue half the time. I guess maybe I need to go back again, I skipped this mornings run though it feels a bit better.

  • Green EyesGreen Eyes ✭✭✭

    I had a stress fracture a few years ago just above my ankle - it hurt like hell when I ran and I didn't run for a bout 5 months - cycled a lot instead.  I think I tried a run after a few weeks and it still hurt and probably put back the healing so I had no choice but to stop.  I was like you running 4 or 5 times a week but my health was more important than races.  I don't know the healing time for a metatarsal stress fracture but if you suspect that is what it is then I wouldn't run tomorow morning.  Hope it gets sorted soon.

  • I 'probably' had a metatarsal stress fracture last year - with differing medical opinions as to whether it was or wasn't ...they often don't show on x-rays.
    4-6 weeks is the optimistic view - like Green Eyes, it was more like 5 months before I started running again - and even then a few months at very gentle 10 -12 miles per week, no long runs (from 40 -50 miles before that).
    Cycling was fine though ... (after the first 4 - 6 weeks) 

  • I've been told that I probably have a stress fracture...and it's been hurting since the beginning of May. I have an ultrasound on the 16th August so hopefully I will find out then. I haven't been able to run at all!
  • In my Clinic I always request an MRI if there is a clincial indication of a stress fracture. An x-ray will show up the probelm after 6 weeks (as this is the time it takes for the bone to start adapting on x-ray) but it is not as good as an MRI.

    A stress fracutre, once treated will be 100% ok -- but you need to undersstand why you got the stress fracutre in the first place. Was it becasue you ran too much too soon or is it something to do with you biomechanics. If you dont find the casue out it will come back!!

    I put my patietns in a walking boot for 6 weeks once a diagnosis is made and they are fine after that.

  • An expert would see a stress fracture on X-ray by now, but you need to know what you are looking at. A GP, reading the report may well not get it. MRI is needed only to pick it up in the early stages.

    They don't go away if you you don't 1) get relative rest 2) sort out underlying problems. Once healed that should be it, but you can get them again if you don't fix the underlying problem.

    There is a machine called Exogen, which is great for healing these things up. Look at this guy is a marathon runner / orthopaedic surgeon who had the same problems. Look up exogen on there.


  • My metatarsal stress fracture (diagnosed clinically; also periosteal reaction visible six weeks later) took about six weeks to heal with rest (I wore walking sandals with a very stiff sole for support, because I couldn't get any other stiff-soled footwear on). The extensor tendonitis (happened at the same time and for the same reasons) took about three months, several physio sessions on the associated musculature and lots of exercises (also temporary use of orthotics, which I ditched as soon as they weren't needed).

    However, a year and a day after the stress fracture I ran my first 50K, so yes, they do heal!

  • Thanks all, didn't get any email notifications so apologies for the delay.

    I'll see if I can get another appt. with the doctor and maybe get an x-ray this time, given it's been over 3 months it should definitely be showing up now (the doc is a sports specialist that used to work in international cricket so should know what he's doing).

    It's normally fine walking, and was even okay on the run, it was the day later that was an issue. If I need to take a 2-3 months off so be it, but I'd rather now that for sure in case I do and it turns out to be something else.

  • If its any help to further confuse things -- I had a stress fracture and I had been running on it! I limped about a lot when walking and when running it killed (for 5 minutes agony then vanished...only to return 15 minutes into my run and curtailed the whole thing by 20 minutes). I didn't know it was a stress fracture and assumed it was fine to run on.


    I was diagnosed with a nuclear bone scan, an MRI did not pick it up because there was too much inflammation. I couldn't see inflammation to be honest but the scan showed nothing but a cloudy leg so they decided there was a problem as inflammation occurs with injury. The Nuclear Bone Scan picked it up very clearly (and picked up a few other injury issues in addition).


    I rested for about 8 months and did no impact stuff bar walking around in padded trainers and began back but with a barefoot style and Nike Free trainers (I had been wearing maximum support Asics and decided they'd let me down so thought I'd try a different tactic) and so far, 18 months on its not returned.

  • I ran on a tibial sf for about 3 months.  It owns only sore for about the first mitower two.  Ran a half marathon pb and a 5 km pb two weeks before diagnosis.  There was no sign of healing on the 6 week X-ray so now have another 4 weeks on crutches....still no pain though.

    is there any hope out there?

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