Running in Houston This Long Weekend? Watch out for Top of the Foot Pain

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Don't ignore top of the foot pain when running - it could be a stress fractureEven in the dog days of summer, an extra day off of work gives runners a great opportunity to have a lazy Sunday and still start the week off right with a long workout. There are many aches and pains that may keep runners from hitting the road (or treadmill), but for this weekend, I want to focus on discomfort on the top of the foot.

If you are a runner that experiences this symptom, it’s quite likely you have a metatarsal stress fracture. This type of injury takes time to develop, but once you have a metatarsal stress fracture, it can take you out of the running game for months. In order to save you from hanging up your sneakers, I want to identify the risk factors for this kind of stress fracture to help you avoid the injury and the downtime that comes with it.

There are five metatarsal bones in your foot; stress fractures occur when small cracks appear in these bones. A stress fracture is different from other types of bone breaks because the injury occurs as a result of repeated impact over long periods of time.

Sometimes it can be hard to tell if you’ve got a metatarsal stress fracture—at first, the pain won’t be so bad but, trust me, it will get worse if you keep training without receiving treatment. Some people notice mild swelling or redness on top of the foot, but others don’t have this symptom. As the injury worsens, you will likely experience pain that flares up while running but decreases when you are at rest. If the injury is really bad, you’ll feel pain even when you’re just relaxing; pressing on the area will hurt a lot.

How do you get these types of fractures?  Over-doing it on the running! Usually, your body repairs and strengthens your bones when you rest after a really hard workout. If you don’t give yourself enough downtime between workouts, your body can’t heal itself and cracks in the bones can occur.

If you want to protect yourself from this type of injury, try some of these ideas. Change up your workout every day so that you don’t hit the same bones again and again. Instead of always running, include some lower intensity cross-training exercises in your regimen to give your feet a break. Make sure your shoes fit you well and give you adequate support—custom orthotics may be necessary if you have an unusual foot shape or arch.  And if you’re reading this posting too late and suspect that you’ve already sustained a stress fracture, come see your Houston podiatrist so I can diagnose the extent of the injury and begin your treatment plan. 

Dr. Andrew Schneider
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Dr. Andrew Schneider is a podiatrist and foot surgeon at Tanglewood Foot Specialists in Houston, TX.