By Dr. Brian S. Harley
Board-certified reconstructive foot and ankle surgeon at Alpharetta Foot and Ankle Specialists

It’s great to set running goals, but when off the bat you want to run a marathon (26.2-miles) — it’s wiser to take a few steps back.

Foot stress fractures are one of the most common conditions foot and ankle surgeons treat. This is especially true with first-time marathoners. With more experienced runners increasingly comparing their personal best with their running buddies, as well as the growing popularity of marathons, there has been an increase in repetitive stress injuries, including stress fractures of the foot.

The issue arises when first-time marathoners enter a race with little or improper long-distance training. Inexperience along with repetitive impact on the feet can create enough stress to cause hairline fractures. Likewise, when runners quickly increase their mileage, they can be more susceptible to a stress fracture. To avoid injury, increase your running mileage by about 10 percent weekly. If you are training, make sure to rest between runs, this can help reduce the risk for a fracture.

And to minimize stress injuries, wear supportive athletic shoes and slowly build your activity levels according to your abilities. Proper footwear is also important if you suffer from flatfoot, have osteoporosis or a foot deformity.

Signs of a stress fracture include: pain of the area, swelling, redness and even bruising.
If left untreated, stress fractures can eventually lead to a complete break of the bone. To ensure adequate healing, early diagnosis and treatment are important.
If you suspect a break, follow the RICE protocol — rest, ice, compression and elevation. And if pain and swelling last longer than a few days, make an appointment for an X-ray and diagnosis.

Treatment can include rest and immobilization with casting of the foot. To stabilize a stress fracture that progressed into a full fracture, surgery may also be required. If you suspect you have a foot injury or fracture, it is best to contact a foot specialist for a complete evaluation.

Dr. Brian S. Harley is a board-certified reconstructive foot and ankle surgeon at Alpharetta Foot and Ankle Specialists, with locations in Alpharetta and Cumming. The practice is affiliated with Northside Hospital. For more information, visit alpharettafootandankle.com or call 770-667-4410.

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