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Metatarsal Foot Stress Fracture

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March 31, 2024

What Is a Metatarsal Foot Stress Fracture?

foot stress fracture

A Metatarsal, or foot, stress fracture can occur in any bone of the foot or ankle. These fractures vary in severity from a “stress reaction” in the bone, or a visual “crack” seen on x-ray.

Unlike the usual bone fracture (complete separation or in multiple pieces), a stress fracture can result from simple overuse, intense exercise or shoe gear with poor support. The most common area for a stress fracture is the top of the foot in the middle, on the metatarsal bones.

The pain is characterized as sharp with the first few steps in the morning, and also in the evening after increased activities, or with minor relief as it is “warmed up” during light walking and massage.

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How We Treat Foot Stress Fractures

If the bone is completely broken, or if there is a complex fracture, patients may need immediate surgical attention. That being said, surgery is fairly uncommon for the majority of develop stress fractures unless the pain becomes chronic and conservative treatments fail.

Conservative Foot Stress Fracture Treatments

Weight Bearing

Fractures need protection from motion in most cases in the foot. Keeping pressure off the area is the best way to minimize separation of the bone that is fractured. Crutches, walkers, wheelchairs, and strollers can be great tools depending on the severity of the fracture.

Arch Support

Temporary arch supports, supportive athletic shoes, or a custom made insole cushion in the shoe will all provide additional rest to the injured area. Custom molded orthotics are the best solution for immediate and long-term treatment.


Using an insulated ice pack on and off the foot immediately after the injury and for 72 hours will help reduce swelling and bruising. After that time, alternate between ice and heat approximately every 20 minutes to help with bruising and continued swelling.


Similar to treating bone fractures, taking anti-inflammatory medication can help with chronic pain, while multivitamins rich in C and D with calcium will help the healing process continue.


Casts are used for protection of the fracture area. Casts can be removable with Velcro straps or molded to the foot and ankle with plaster or fiberglass. Non-weight bearing ranges from 3 to 6 weeks.

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Surgical Treatment for Foot Stress Fractures

proximal fifth metatarsal

If the bone is completely broken, or if the fracture is complex, then you may need surgical treatment. However, foot stress fractures are a crack in the bone, so these injuries don’t typically warrant surgical treatment.

Surgery might involve the placement of pins, screws, or plates to stabilize the fracture, ensuring proper alignment and facilitating healing. This option is typically considered when the fracture is at risk of not healing correctly or when previous conservative methods have failed to resolve the issue.

Follow the aforementioned conservative methods, such as pain medication and orthotics, as well as follow-up X-rays and MRIs for the best course of treatment.

For fractures that are slow to heal, an external bone growth stimulator may be used. This device sends pulsed ultrasound or electromagnetic waves through the skin to stimulate bone growth and accelerate the healing process.

Insurance Coverage for Metatarsal Stress Fractures

metatarsal head

At Modern Foot & Ankle, we are in-network with all major insurance companies and dedicated to working closely with them to ensure you receive the maximum coverage for your treatment.

Our efforts extend to ensuring that treatments for various specific conditions, including fifth metatarsal fractures, tuberosity avulsion fractures, and cases requiring internal fixation, are covered to the greatest extent possible by your insurance plan.

Our team is adept at navigating insurance policies and is committed to alleviating the financial stress of your recovery process. We provide specialized support and resources to make your insurance experience seamless, allowing you to focus on your recovery and health.

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Why Choose Modern Foot & Ankle for Your Care

When it comes to the health of your feet and ankles, especially in cases of metatarsal fractures, stress fractures, and other related conditions, selecting the right care provider is paramount to achieving a successful recovery.

Modern Foot & Ankle stands out in the realm of podiatric medicine for numerous reasons, offering a blend of expert care, state-of-the-art technology, and a patient-centered approach that is tailored to the unique needs of each individual. Here's a closer look at what makes us your best choice for foot and ankle care:

Our Expert Team

At Modern Foot & Ankle, our team comprises specialists who are at the forefront of podiatric medicine. Highly trained and deeply experienced in the latest treatments and technologies, our doctors specialize in addressing a wide range of foot and ankle conditions.

From the common stress fracture to the more complex fifth metatarsal and Jones fractures, our experts bring a depth of knowledge and skill to each case, ensuring you receive the highest standard of care.

Comprehensive Care from Diagnosis to Rehabilitation

Our commitment to your health doesn't stop at diagnosis. We provide a full spectrum of services that cover every phase of your recovery process, from initial consultation and diagnosis through to rehabilitation and preventive care.

This holistic approach ensures that you not only recover from your current condition but also gain the strength and resilience to prevent future injuries.

Utilizing Advanced Technology

Leveraging advanced diagnostic tools and treatment methods allows us to handle even the most complex foot and ankle cases with precision and effectiveness.

Whether it's employing cutting-edge imaging technology to accurately diagnose a Jones fracture or utilizing minimally invasive surgical techniques for a fifth metatarsal fracture, our access to advanced technology enhances our ability to deliver superior care.

A Patient-Centered Approach

Understanding that each patient's journey is unique, we offer personalized treatment plans designed to cater to your individual needs, promoting optimal healing and long-term health.

Our patient-centered approach ensures that you feel heard, supported, and actively involved in your care every step of the way.

Navigating Insurance with Ease

Dealing with insurance can often be overwhelming, but our knowledgeable staff is here to simplify the process for you. We work diligently to help you understand your coverage options, communicate with your insurance provider, and ensure you receive the maximum benefits available for treatments, including those for metatarsal stress fractures and other conditions.

Empowering Through Education

Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to your health. We are committed to empowering our patients with comprehensive information about foot and ankle health, offering resources through our website and patient education materials that are designed to enlighten and inform.

In Summary

  1. Metatarsal stress fractures are injuries that require precise and expert care to ensure a complete and effective recovery. These fractures, which can vary from minor stress reactions to visible cracks on X-rays, often result from overuse, intense physical activity, or inadequate footwear support.
  2. The most commonly affected area is the top of the foot, specifically the metatarsal bones, leading to sharp pain during the initial steps in the morning or after periods of rest.
  3. Effective management of these avulsion fracture includes both conservative and advanced treatment strategies. Initially, limiting weight bearing on the affected foot, using supportive devices like crutches or orthotics, and applying ice can significantly aid the healing process.
  4. For more severe fractures, such as Jones fractures or those involving the fifth metatarsal, surgical intervention might be necessary to ensure proper healing.

The information on our website is intended for general informational and educational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. For any health-related concerns, we strongly recommend consulting with a healthcare professional. Please note that any reliance on the information found on our site is solely at your own risk. For more details, please see our Medical Disclaimer.


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How long does it take for a stress fracture to heal on a foot?

It typically takes 6 to 8 weeks for a stress fracture in the foot to heal. Healing can be accelerated by complete non-weight bearing and immobilization.

How do you know if you have a stress fracture in foot?

Signs of a stress fracture in the foot include swelling, pain during the first steps in the morning or after periods of rest, and sometimes bruising.

Can you walk on a stress fracture?

While it is possible to walk on a stress fracture, doing so may worsen the injury and prolong healing time.

What is the best treatment for a stress fracture?

The best treatment for a stress fracture includes rest, immobilization with a walking boot or CAM walker, and in more severe cases, non-weight bearing with crutches.

What does a stress fracture feel like in foot?

A stress fracture in the foot feels like a sharp or deep ache that worsens with activity and improves with rest. There may also be swelling.

Do stress fractures heal on their own?

Stress fractures can heal on their own if proper rest and weight-bearing precautions are taken to allow the bone to repair itself.

How long does it take for a metatarsal fracture to heal?

A metatarsal fracture typically takes 6 to 8 weeks to heal, depending on the severity and treatment method.

How serious is a broken metatarsal?

A broken metatarsal is serious as it affects the foot's structure and function, requiring proper treatment to heal correctly and prevent long-term issues.

Can a broken metatarsal heal without a cast?

Some broken metatarsals can heal without a cast if they are non-displaced fractures and treated with a walking boot or strict non-weight bearing.

How do you treat a fractured metatarsal?

Treatment for a fractured metatarsal includes immobilization with a cast or boot, rest, ice, compression, elevation (RICE), and sometimes surgery for severe cases.

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Local Podiatrists specializing in Foot Stress Fracture

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Dr. Moore, a Spring, Texas-based board-certified Podiatrist, known for comprehensive care in all foot and ankle conditions with a focus on advanced surgical methods.

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