Possible stress fracture... driving me crazy!

About five weeks ago, I was scheduled to run a half marathon and had a bit of lateral foot pain. It wasn’t too bad, so I popped some ibuprofen and ran anyway (which, I realise now, was incredibly stupid). Anyway, by about mile 9 my foot was in excruciating pain. I stuck it out and ended up beating my PB by over two minutes (woohoo!) and subsequently had to be carried back to the car by one of my team mates because I couldn’t even stand on it. I went to see my GP the next day. There wasn’t any swelling or bruising and he didn’t seem to think it was a big deal and told me to RICE for 10 days. Rested and limped around for 10 days, nothing changed. Went back and he decided that I probably had a mild stress fracture in my 5th metatarsal but said that nothing would show up in an x-ray and the waiting time for an MRI is currently about nine weeks, by which time it would be healed anyway.

I went to see my physio and she agreed that it was probably a stress fracture and that I just needed to wait it out. She told me to let pain be my guide in terms of exercise, so I’ve been cycling, swimming and aquajogging loads, all of which are pain-free.

Five weeks along and I can walk almost pain-free (I wouldn't say it's painful, but I can definitely tell that something is wrong with it when I walk) but any time I jog across the street, etc, the pain comes roaring back. It’s been like this for about two weeks and it doesn’t seem to be improving.

I know five weeks out isn’t that long, but a few things have been making me really paranoid-

1. I haven’t had a proper diagnosis, so the doctor and the physio could be completely wrong. Should I go back to the doctor and ask for an MRI??

2. If it is a stress fracture, shouldn’t I be in a boot? I normally walk or cycle EVERYWHERE and I don’t own a car. I’m getting worried that, for example, my half mile walk to uni is doing damage. But then I suppose that in order to get a boot, I’d need a proper diagnosis, and my doctor seems to think the whole thing is “no big deal”.

3. I’m also slightly worried that I’m making it worse with the cycling. I’ve been doing a lot of intense hilly routes (mainly to keep myself sane, as lap swimming and aquajogging are soul destroying) and it doesn’t hurt but I’m afraid I could be putting additional stress on it without realising it.

I'm trying to be patient... I'm currently missing my uni club's XC season, which is pretty devastating as it's my last year. I'm running Boston in April, so I'm trying to stay focused on that when the cross training starts driving me crazy but I don't even know what's wrong with my foot and I'm starting to feel a bit hopeless.

Any words of wisdom?


  • I would go back to Dr.

    Have you spoken to anyone at your Uni club? My Uni coach used to have contacts at another Uni that taught Sports Medicine and were always looking for guinea pigs. Not as bad as it sounds usually just meant being examined with an audience!
  • That's a great idea Crimson, I don't know why I hadn't thought of that before. My coach knows I'm injured but I've not been along to training since it started up again (mainly because I've been rushing off for a swim after my lectures every evening). I'll try to catch him tomorrow, he's pretty well-connected in the local running community. Thanks for the response!


  • RicFRicF ✭✭✭


  • I've just recovered from a fractured 5th metatarsal (not stress fracture). I was in a stiff soled shoe and told to get rid of it as soon as possible and return to cycling etc as soon as I felt able. I got rid of the shoe after about 10 days and just made sure that the shoes I was wearing were not too soft. The only restriction they placed was no running but that was also to do with the fact that I was in a cast for 10 weeks with a broken Fibula a few months ago and they were concerned about healing times. It's 6 weeks and 3 days since the fracture and I did my first 10 minute run last night after a spin class and stil feel some intermittent discomfort today.

    On the basis that I was told to cycle as soon as I wanted and to get rid of the shoe as soon as I could then I wouldn't worry about those two elements. Pain associated with a fracture lasts a long time in my recent experience but it should lessen over time obviously. If this isn't the case then I would suggest that you still have a problem but it may be that you need to be a touch more patient, easier said than done I know. Go and see your GP and let them poke and squeeze and prod your foot and get an opinion at least.
  • Thanks so much for your response Rich, that's really useful information and it makes me feel a lot better about the walking/cycling. I think I'll pester my GP a bit more but yes, I know I need to be patient and I need to relax. I'm naturally a very impatient and stressed-out person (a trait that running helps to remedy immensely) so I'm trying to convince myself that all of this crosstraining will make me a better runner in the long run. Thanks again for your response. Glad to hear that you're on your feet again- I hope the transition back into running goes well!

  • Hi ba

    If you do have a stress fracture, it won't show on x ray until the bone starts to reform so patience is needed.

    I had one on my 4th metatarsal and symptoms identical to you, gp and nhs no help or advice just take ibuprofen and rest was it.

    I don't know your financial position but I just ordered a boot off the web and stayed in it for 7 weeks. You said jogging across the road hurts, I could hardly take my weight on mine so surprised you are able to do even that?

    Did lots of stationary bike in stiff sole shoes to keep fit whilst I waited, was told the accepted wisdom is if you can't hop on the injured foot it isn't healed.

    Hopefully this isn't patronising but bite the bullet and get yourself a boot, keep your weight off the injured foot and let time heal it.
  • Hi,

    I went to hospital yesterday. Basically , I started marathon training in July and pain crept in. Laid off for a week, still hurt, another week, hurt to run so I went to Minor Injuries. They x-rayed me within 30 minutes and gave me advice. I was then referred to a physio who I have seen 3 times (through NHS) and they answered all my questions and gave me specoalist advice that I couldn`t have afforded to pay for. And sympathy!

    I have now done 3 runs during the past fortnight and I`m being very systematic about it, adding 10% each time and only running when it feels ok. Next is 28 minutes!

    It is the worst running injury I have had and has scuppered my 2012 plans. However, I`m trying to be positive. Like you, I nabbed a PB just before injury, at 5k winning my first race and I`ve tried a fell race this year too so bigger picture and all that!

  • btw, Ibuprofen no good really for non-muscular injury!?

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