Summer means more time going shoeless, whether it’s at the pool or just around the house, as well as wearing sandals and flip flops as the footwear of choice. But these choices too often translate to less protection and arch support, putting feet and ankles at risk of stress fractures. And while stress fractures can happen any time of year, especially for those who play court sports like tennis or are frequent joggers, our feet truly are more vulnerable in the summer months, when we finally allow our little piggies to see the sunshine. Never had a stress fracture? Here are symptoms of stress fractures to look for, before they become something worse.

What is a Stress Fracture?

Stress fractures — also known as hairline cracks or fractures – are common when the bone experiences tiny cracks as a result of continued pounding on hard surfaces, unsupportive or worn-down shoes, or carrying too much weight. Stress fractures can occur in any bone, however, when they happen in the foot and ankle, it can make walking, running, standing or playing your favorite sport unbearable. Left untreated, stress fractures can become more pronounced and difficult to treat.

Symptoms of Stress Fractures

Standing on your feet all day or running a 10k can cause your feet to ache, but that doesn’t mean you have stress fractures. To differentiate between achy, sore feet and stress fractures, watch for these signs, which include

  • The most reported characteristic of a stress fracture is the occurrence of pain deep within the ankle, foot, or toes. Those affected can also experience minor discomfort or weakness in the area where the fracture is. Expect the pain to intensify as you increase pressure on your feet; the pain may also let up when you keep off your feet. (Note: this is one difference between stress fractures and plantar fasciitis; with the latter the pain alleviates when you start to move your feet but intensifies when you take those initial steps after resting for a long while.)
  • A stress fracture in your foot can cause swelling on the top of your foot and outside of your ankle. It can also cause mild redness throughout your foot, preventing you from walking comfortably.
  • When you have a stress fracture, expect your foot to become more sensitive to pain, especially when touching the affected area – this is also referred to as “pin-point” pain.
  • In some cases, bruising can occur. While this happens rarely, be on the lookout for bruising and discoloration around the affected area.

Treatment for Stress Fractures

Stress fractures can really be a bummer, especially during summer months. However, there are things you can do to prevent them from occurring in the first place. Start with wearing supportive shoes; if sandals and flip flops are your thing, invest in ones that offer arch support and appropriate cushioning. They may be priced a little more than bargain brands, but your feet will thank you. Avoid going barefoot at all costs, even around the house. If you go for long walks or have a hike planned, be sure to stretch your feet and wear supportive shoes with custom-made orthotics for added support. If you start to feel pain, ice the affected area. Anti-inflammatory medications can reduce the inflammation and swelling that causes pain and wrapping your feet, ankles and shins can offer additional support and stability.

Treating Stress Fractures in Cincinnati

If you believe you could have stress fractures, or any other foot or ankle condition, seek medical attention immediately before a small problem develops into a situation. The foot and ankle specialists at Cincinnati Foot and Ankle Clinic want you to have the best summer ever, and can diagnose and treat any number of foot and ankle conditions that can ruin your day. Whether you’re seeking custom-made orthotics, diabetic foot care or arthroscopic surgery, our goal is to prevent your pain from worsening. If you are in southern Ohio and seeking world-class foot and ankle care, you can request an appointment online at any one of our 15 convenient locations.