How to Avoid Metatarsal Stress Fractures as a Distance Runner

Posted on: 14 September 2016

Few injuries can sideline a runner like a metatarsal stress fracture. The pain makes it nearly impossible to run, and you need to take at least a month or two off to allow the bone to heal. Unfortunately, metatarsal stress fractures tend to sneak up on you. There aren't a lot of warning signs of red flags to watch out for. One day you're fine, and the next day, there's intense pain in the top of your foot. Thankfully, there are some steps you can take to reduce your risk of metatarsal stress fractures.

Pay Attention to Your Form

Runners who land on their heel or their midfoot put less strain on their metatarsal bones than runners who land on their forefoot or toes. Pay attention to your form while you're running. Note that your form may be different on shorter, faster runs than on longer endurance runs. If you notice that you're landing on your forefoot or toes, practice landing on your midfoot or heel. Start by just running drills where you land on your heels for a quarter mile at a time or so, and then work up to running your entire run this way.

Don't Neglect Your Strength Training

If your muscles are not strong enough to absorb the impact of running, your bones will be left to absorb more of that impact. So, make sure you integrate strength training into your workout routine. You don't have to go crazy. Some squats and leg presses two or three times per week are a good starting point. You can slowly add more specialized exercises like hip adductions and calf raises.

Don't Run in Worn-Out Shoes

If the soles of your shoes are old and compacted, they won't absorb the shock properly as you land. Even if your shoes still look okay, if you've run more than 300 to 500 miles in them, it's time to replace them.

Spend More Time on Softer Surfaces

Running on the road is certainly convenient, and there's nothing wrong with running some of your miles on the hard asphalt, especially if it's the surface you'll be racing on. But running only on the road can put excessive stress on your bones, leading to a fracture over time. Try to run on all-weather tracks, grass, and dirt paths more often, as these softer surfaces let you get a workout in with less stress on your feet.

If the top of your foot starts hurting rather severely, you probably have a stress fracture, so check it out with a medical professional right away.. Visit your podiatrist for an accurate diagnosis and treatment.