» Foot Stress Fracture
PAINFUL STRESS FRACTURES are the result of repeated force in one area, and the most common breaks show up in the small bones, called metatarsals, in the ball of the foot, and the larger tarsals, closer to the ankle. They typically occur in runners and basketball players after a sudden increase in training intensity or mileage.
TREATMENT: "Most stress fractures take at least four to six weeks to heal, and the only thing that helps is rest," says Marje Albohm, an athletic trainer with Indianapolis, Indiana's OrthoIndy sports-medicine clinic. "You needn't lose your fitness, though. You can maintain it by switching to non-weight-bearing activities like swimming or biking at least three times a week." Keep the swelling down by icing the injured foot after every workout.
Gary Briskin, a podiatrist with the Foot and Ankle Institute, in Los Angeles, says, "When you do walk around, wear stiff-soled shoes like hiking boots. They'll protect the fracture by preventing your foot from flexing and putting pressure on the sensitive area."
PREVENTION: Invest in quality footwear. "Good shoes disperse the force from your body's impact evenly over the entire foot surface, so fractures have less of a chance of developing," says Albohm. To find the best shoe for you, go to a running-shoe shop staffed with experts. Having trouble locating one? Talk to members of a running club or call the track coach at a local college or high school.