Stress fractures are thin hairline fractures that mostly affect the weight-bearing bones in the body. Unlike regular fractures that result from a single severe impact, stress fractures result from repeated or excessive stress over an extended period of time.
The most common sites of stress fractures in the foot are the metatarsal bones, the five long bones that make up the middle part of the foot just behind the ball of the foot. The heel bone and navicular bone (small bone in front of the ankle) are also frequently injured.
Stress fractures usually present as a dull ache that appears gradually and increases with activity. This pain tends to relieve quickly with rest. Without treatment this pain can become more constant and severe, and may even persist with rest. Swelling is also common for some stress fractures.
Rest, especially during the initial stages, is the best treatment for stress fractures. Ice and elevation can also be useful to help manage pain and any possible swelling. In the long term extra support in the way of shoes or innersoles can be used to both rehab the injury, as well as prevent future injuries.