Stress fractures are partial breaks, or cracks in a bone. In the feet, stress fractures usually occur in the second, third or fourth metatarsals. It will hurt to touch or squeeze the affected area. Walking or running will be painful, whereas generally there will not be pain during rest periods. There may or may not be redness and swelling. Stress fractures are always painful.
They are usually considered an overuse injury. This can be the result of over-training, switching running surfaces (soft to hard), or wearing shoes that provide inadequate support.
If you suspect a stress fracture see your family doctor or a sports-oriented podiatrist. You will probably need one or both of an x-ray and a bone scan. Do not run at all for six weeks. Often crutches, and sometimes casting is needed. It takes six weeks for the bone to heal adequately. If you try to run sooner, you will only prolong the healing time, or develop a real fracture. The good news is that stress fractures usually heal without complications. Early diagnosis and proper treatment are the key.
Some type of overuse almost always causes stress fractures of the foot. If you notice a dull ache or sharp pain in your foot, cut back the intensity of your activity. Try to find a softer surface to run on. If you do have a stress fracture you will most likely have to alter your training in order to prevent a recurrence. Consider changing your sneaker or running shoe to one with more shock absorption.
You should not run with a stress fracture.