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Three Ways Runners Can Prevent Metatarsal Stress Fractures

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Nothing strikes fear into the hearts of runners quite like the threat of a stress fracture. Unlike soft tissue injuries like tendonitis and sore muscles (which you may be able to run through if you take it easy), a stress fracture will leave you sidelined for weeks, potentially wrecking your entire running season. Metatarsal stress fractures, which are fractures of the bones in the top of the foot, are among the most common injuries in runners. Luckily, there are some things you can do to prevent such fractures.

Lace your shoes properly.

If you're just lacing your shoes in a classic criss-cross pattern, you're doing it wrong. This lacing arrangement puts too much pressure on the top of your foot, which increases your risk of a stress fracture. A better way to lace your running shoes is to lace two plain x's, and then pass both of the laces up through the subsequent eyelets on the same side. When you have just two eyelets left on each side, criss-cross the laces again to make another x. There should be a big, open spot with no laces crossing it on the tongue of the shoe. This is where your metatarsal bones will be -- the lack of laces means they'll be under less pressure.

Run on varied surfaces.

Logging mile after mile on the hard asphalt or concrete is really hard on your feet, and especially on your metatarsal bones, which take a lot of the strain when you run on such hard ground. If you'll be racing on these surfaces, then you'll need to train on them sometimes -- but there's no reason to run all of your miles on them. Focus on running most of your miles on softer surfaces like trails and all-weather tracks. All of your bones, ligaments, and tendons will thank you.

Make sure you're landing on your midfoot.

A lot of runners overstride, causing them to land on their heels rather than on their midfoot. Heel striking, as this is commonly called, leads to an increase in impact force and biomechanical strain, which increases your risk of many injuries including stress fractures. To make sure you land on your midfoot rather than your heel, focus on taking shorter strides and increasing your cadence. Try aiming for 180 steps per minute. At this up-tempo cadence, most runners naturally switch to landing on the midfoot.

If you begin to develop soreness in the top of your foot, take some time off from running and seek treatment from a podiatrist. This is often a sign of tendonitis in the digital tendons, which may lead to a stress fracture if you continue to run through the pain.

For more information, contact Dr. Lisa M. Schoene or a similar medical professional.