Yep, I Have A Foot Stress Fracture From Running

Cue Dramatic Chipmunk.

Oh, Dramatic Chipmuk, you never get old.

And I actually wrote about foot stress fractures back in 2010! Oh, the humanity:

How To Avoid Foot Fractures For Runners

Too bad I wasn’t able to follow my own advice.

I really hoped I was over reacting by seeing a doctor a week after a mysterious ache crept into my left foot. Here’s the thing: it didn’t hurt and I only felt it while running. When I wasn’t running it felt totally fine. But when the ache was there, it felt deep within the bone in the ball of my foot. I didn’t like that. I thought, “It might just be a bruise.” But I also know that fractures are common among runners, and especially common among women—Deena Kastor famously fractured her foot, Desiree Linden her femur. I’m no elite runner, but I decided not to waste time. I booked a doctor’s appointment. I just had a feeling in my gut.

I’m so glad I did. An MRI confirmed I have a stress fracture in my tibial sesmoid—one of two tiny, round bones in the ball of the foot. I also have a swollen or “pinched” nerve known as a neuroma. Both are common in runners, says my doc, who is a runner himself. He’ll be running the Airbnb Brooklyn Half in in May and I’ll be announcing at the start.

Stressing Over a Running Stress Fracture

Sesamoid bones

I found this description from the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons:

“A chronic fracture is a stress fracture (a hairline break usually caused by repetitive stress or overuse). A chronic sesamoid fracture produces longstanding pain in the ball of the foot beneath the big toe joint. The pain, which tends to come and go, generally is aggravated with activity and relieved with rest.”

Yup, that’s it exactly.

The Good News

The good news is doc thinks my foot stress fracture isn’t too acute, so he’s prescribing two weeks of no running as a starting point. Thankfully, I’ve already served five days of my two week sentence. Then he’ll reexamine me and reevaluate. When he presses deep into the fractured area it definitely hurts! Whereas when he does the same test on the right foot, I don’t flinch a bit. The other good news is it doesn’t hurt at all while walking, which is why my doctor is starting with a shorter sentence than the six to eight weeks you often read about with stress fractures.

For the next 10 days, I’m sporting a foot pad and wrap to take the pressure off the stress fracture. I’m not allowed to wear heels and he wants me in hard-soled or structured shoes whenever possible. I can’t run, strength train standing up, or do any other weight bearing exercise. I can swim all I want, cycle only if I wear hard-soled cycling shoes, and maybe ride the elliptical if I don’t bend my toes at all. I think I’m going to stick to swimming for the next few days to play it safe, and maybe try a ride on the bike or elliptical next week, with caution.

Stressing Over a Running Stress Fracture

Angle 2

The Bad News

The bad news is I’ll definitely have to pull-out of The North Face Endurance Challenge at Bear Mountain on May 3. My next appointment is May 4. Even if he cleared me to run then, I’m pretty sure I shouldn’t jump right into a challenging 10K trail race. So much for my big trail race debut! My hubby is running so I’ll cheer him on.

The Suja Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Half Marathon on May 31 might still be on the table, but definitely not as a PR attempt. Once I’m cleared to run again, I’m not going to jump right back into hard training, but will ease in and reevaluate everything I’m doing to minimize the chances of getting a foot stress fracture again. I’d love to still do the race as an easy, fun run if I’m able. But if I have to rebuild my mileage from square one—or if my two week respite turns into three weeks, four, or more—this might not be an option either. To be determined.

Stressing Over A Stress Fracture

Am I frustrated? Yes. Mostly because I haven’t done anything all that different from other training cycles, so I kind of feel like, “Why now?” But I also know that training isn’t the only factor, so I want to look at my vitamin D, calcium, and estrogen levels, which all play a huge role in bone health, especially considering my medical history with endometriosis. I have an appointment on Monday with my primary doctor.

But I’m also trying to keep things in perspective. This is my first true running injury in 10 years. That’s an excellent track record.

And I’ve been through much worse: a bone-tumor that kept me from running for more than a decade, a rotator cuff injury that curtailed my swimming career as a teenager, ovarian surgery that knocked me out for one season as a high school athlete, temporary medically-induced menopause that wrecked havoc on my body for six months when I was in college, a horse fall that sent me to physical therapy for six weeks in 2013, excision of a pre-cancerous mole that knocked me out of training for three weeks in 2014, and other maladies like arthritis, TMJ problems, ulcers on my vocal chords, and gastroesophageal reflux disease. I could go on. I won’t.

The point is: in the grand scheme of things, a foot stress fracture is totally manageable. I’ve learned to be resilient. This, too, shall pass.

Timeline of a Foot Stress Fracture

This is mostly for my own record-keeping since I’m a total nerd. But thought I’d publish it in case it’s helpful to anyone else.

Week 1

Saturday, April 11: First inkling of foot discomfort after strength session and easy run.
Sunday, April 12: Foot discomfort continued after strength-cardio session. Opted to skip long run and take a few days rest.
Monday, April 13: Day 1 Rest to see if that might help
Tuesday, April 14: Day 2 Rest to see if that might help
Wednesday, April 15: Ran easy again to test the waters. Foot discomfort crept in mid-run.
Thursday, April 16: Short strength session, no run. Foot felt fine.
Friday, April 17: Ran easy again. Then that ache reared its head again.

Week 2

Saturday, April 18: Trail run/hike. Foot discomfort popped up mid-way. Decided to stop running until I could see a doctor.
Sunday, April 19: No running. Haven’t run since.
Monday, April 20: Made doctor appointment
Tuesday, April 21: Saw doctor for initial assessment. He suspected a stress fracture.
Thursday, April 23: MRI confirmed a stress fracture, plus a swollen nerve. Next appointment is Monday, May 3.

Stressing Over A Foot Stress Fracture

Thar she blows! My MRI.

I have to plug ZocDoc.com. When I hurt my hip falling off of a horse, I called 13 doctors before I found someone who could see me, and even then I had to wait over a week.

Then a friend who is a physician’s assistant told me about ZocDoc. Cue angels singing!

You can use their website or mobile app to plug in the type of doctor you’re looking for, the problem you’re having, your zipcode, and health insurance plan. ZocDoc will then show you a list of doctors and their availability, and you can book right then and there. I had my pick of doctors with same-day and next day appointments. I chose a foot specialist who treats athletes and is a runner himself. Said so right in his profile, alongside reviews from actual patients. No more calling 13 doctors. No more waiting a week for an appointment. It’s genius.

Thank you to everyone who’s kept their fingers crossed and wished me well in blog comments, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I really appreciate it—it actually does make me feel better!

Karla Bruning

About 

Karla Bruning is a race announcer at the TCS New York City Marathon + other major events, TV host for the Panasonic New York City Triathlon + regular contributor to Shape + Redbook online. She used to report for Newsweek but spent her free time squeezing in workouts. Now it's her job. She's run 8 marathons, 30 halves, 10 triathlons + open water swims, spoils her dog + travels compulsively.

20 Comments Add Yours ↓

The upper is the most recent comment

  1. 1

    I’ve been on Vitamin D3 for years. I didn’t know i was deficient until my first blood work with my doctor after moving to Dallas. 1,000 IU’s every day.
    Lesley recently posted..Blogs to ReadMy Profile

    • Karla Bruning
      2

      That might be my fate too. I got tested on Monday. We’ll see…

  2. Michelle Rose #
    3

    I know your frustration! Get better soon! This was still very helpful.

  3. Pam #
    5

    Oh Karla, I am so very sorry. This is a tough break, but hopefully the two weeks will be enough rest and you will be back on the pavement soon! My sister has suffered with several stress fractures in her foot, but thankfully she had good training and was able to run Boston with me.
    Pam recently posted..BAA 5k Race RecapMy Profile

    • Karla Bruning
      6

      Thanks! I’ve heard from so many women who’ve had them or know someone who has. Glad your sister was able to make it through Boston with you! Injuries are the pits, but we’ve all suffered through them and come out the other side.

  4. 7

    Oh, man, I’m so sorry to read about your stress fracture. But you were super smart getting it checked out right away, and it sounds like you might still be able to run again soon because of it. Your attitude is awesome considering how many setbacks your body has given you. So, go you!!! (or at least when you’re cleared to run 😉 )

    • Karla Bruning
      8

      Thank you! Fingers crossed my recovery is quick. I got it checked out because I always expect the worst (as my medical history has trained me to!). Obviously, I was *hoping* it wasn’t a stress fracture but was totally *expecting* it to be so figured I should see a doc sooner than later. Glad I did! In cases like this, I hate it when I’m right :)

  5. 9

    So frustrating, but you are right, in the bigger picture totally manageable.
    I just came off a week of rest and physio due to a pulled calf muscle from orienteering. Tomorrow is the first day I have been given permission to run and it is a race day! I am working on the theory that maybe a whole week of rest will make me really want to run (?).
    Rest up and heal :)
    Kristi@Blog for an Average Runner recently posted..Manotick Miler Here I ComeMy Profile

    • Karla Bruning
      10

      Sorry you’ve been out of the game too! After a week off I think I’d be raring to go!

  6. 11

    I felt sorry for you when I saw your tweet. I’m sure you’ll bounce back stronger than ever. Do the right thing re running the half at the end of May. If in doubt, don’t.
    Ewen recently posted..Chasing Isaac to a Parkrun 5k PBMy Profile

    • Karla Bruning
      12

      Great advice that I’ll take to heart. I know it will be tempting, but I’d rather be safe than sorry!!

  7. 13

    UGH, soooo sorry to hear this! I’ve been keeping my fingers crossed that it wasn’t a stress fracture. Super frustrating!

    But, like you said, the good news is that you found a doctor who understands, and you have a solid plan for getting back to business. And, hey, one running injury in 10 years is an EXCELLENT track record…especially given everything else you’ve already overcome.

    It sucks that you won’t be able to participate in the trail race, but hopefully you’ll still be able to do the RnR next month, even if it can’t be a PR attempt. Give your body (and foot!) the rest it needs, and I’m sure you’ll be back and stronger than ever in no time. Wishing you a speedy recovery!
    Jennifer @ The Final Forty recently posted..Wanted: Taper TipsMy Profile

    • Karla Bruning
      14

      Thank you! I’m going to try to be smart about this no matter how tempted I am to get back to racing.

  8. 15

    My sister got stress fractures in both feet at the same time last summer. It was awful for her, especially because she was trying to get ready for a marathon. She ended up having to wear a walking boot because one foot was so bad. However, she realized the same thing that you did, which is there are much worse things!

    • Karla Bruning
      16

      Thanks and sorry to hear about your sister! It’s frustrating, but thankfully not the end of the world!

  9. 17

    Having a foot injury like that, especially when you were looking forward to a big race, is not a fun experience. However, the fact that that was your first major running injury in ten years is really impressive. I felt like I had foot, leg, and hip problems constantly when I was in cross country, and that was only for a few years. Anyway, I’m glad you’re in the recovery process. Thanks for sharing.

  10. 18

    It’s unfortunate that you got a stress fracture while running. Surely, with the resource your friend shared and the well wishes of your readers, you’ve found your solution by this time.
    Christina recently posted..Ankle Injuries: Stress FracturesMy Profile

  11. 19

    You make a good point about resiliency. Having a “this too shall pass” attitude with a stress fracture and similar problems is a wise way to deal with the stress.

  12. 20

    My wife just discovered that she had a foot fracture about two weeks ago. We’re both big runners, and I couldn’t believe she was able to just deal with the pain! It certainly made me look like a wimp. Haha. I’m actually a physician, and I found your article to be very helpful and informative. Thanks!


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