Tips for Trail Runners near Princeton: Preventing & Identifying a Metatarsal Stress Fracture

Faith A. Schick, DPM February 18th, 2019

Don’t Run Into Injuries! Learn How to Avoid Metatarsal Stress Fractures

Athletes everywhere can find plenty of reasons to give trail running a try. Trail surfaces (soft dirt, grass, etc.) are softer and have less of an impact on runners’ joints, and the uneven terrain makes runners take shorter strides and therefore improve their technique and versatility. Additionally, running in a natural environment has relaxing effects. Despite these benefits, those who run on trails are not immune to injuries. Specifically, one common injury that runners develop from exerting pressure on their feet is a metatarsal stress fracture.

How do you know if you have a metatarsal stress fracture? The Foot and Ankle specialists at Rothman Orthopaedic Institute in Princeton can answer this question and any others you have about the condition of your feet. Our physicians are orthopaedic experts who aim to get their athletic patients back to participating in the activities they love. For patients who are new to trailing running, or perhaps have been doing it for a while but only recently became interested in injury prevention, we can inform you about metatarsal stress fractures and how to avoid them.

How to Identity a Metatarsal Stress Fracture

The most common stress fractures in the foot occur in the metatarsals (a group of five long bones), particularly the second and third metatarsals. These bones are under the greatest amount of stress when you push off the ground to walk or run. In general, fractures often occur from either overuse injuries or acute trauma injuries (such as a sudden fall). The repetition of an activity, such as running, may not give the weight-bearing bones and supporting muscles enough time to heal, which then leads to damage and associated symptoms.

Aside from repetition, a number of other factors may contribute to the cause of a metatarsal stress fracture. If you have a condition that decreases bone strength, like osteoporosis, you have a greater chance of developing a stress fracture. Likewise, if you altered your step or running technique due to the manifestation of a blister or bunion, this may add to your discomfort and increase metatarsal pain. Other symptoms of this type of stress fracture include tenderness when touching the site of the injury, increased pain during activity, and possible bruising in the area.

Prevention Tips for Trail Runners

While stress fractures are often unpredictable, prevention efforts can decrease a runner’s likelihood of getting injured. Below are some prevention tips trail runners can take with them on their next course.

  • Maintain a healthy diet. A balanced diet containing essential vitamins and nutrients will keep your bones and muscles strong and your energy level high during runs. Make sure to eat enough calories and avoid processed foods when possible.

  • Invest in proper athletic shoes. To avoid a stress fracture from running, wear properly fitted sneakers before going out on the trail. Worn-out running shoes have lost some of their shock absorbance, so wearing them during a run increases your chance of injury.

  • Cross train. As mentioned previously, the repetitive motion of running may do harm to your legs and feet overtime. However, this can be countered by performing a variety of activities aside from running. Particularly, a combination of high impact activities (like trail running) and low impact activities (such as swimming or cycling) can take some of the pressure off of your lower joints and exercise other parts of your body instead.

  • Know where the trail is taking you. If you are new to a trail, knowing what to expect of your environment is an important safety measure. Will you be running in the shade? Are there steep hills on the trail? What about obstacles, such as sudden narrowings of the trail? Research or perhaps walk the trail before running, and be prepared for the elements ahead.

  • Respond to painful sensations. As you run, get in tune with your body and consider how you feel. If soreness turns to pain, take a break or stop running. If pain continues for several days, consider seeing a specialist. The trail will be waiting for you when you fully recover.

To schedule an appointment with a Foot & Ankle specialist at Rothman Orthopaedic Institute in Princeton, or for more information about preventing a metatarsal stress fracture, please visit us here or contact us at 1-800-321-9999.

Related Physicians

Filter Physicians



Please select your region to view available physicians.

Select Your Region

Related Programs

  • Cartilage Restoration Institute

    This is a center where patients can go to have their disabled joint biological resurfaced, realigned, and stabilized without having the joint replaced by artificial materials such as metal and plastic. It is well known that the outcomes of patients under the age of 50 undergoing artificial joint replacement are not as good as we would like. Therefore we feel the future of Orthopaedics is to try to restore a joint back to its original anatomy by realignment, ligament reconstruction, and cartilage restoration.
    Read More
  • Women’s Sports Medicine Program

    The Women’s Sports Medicine Program at the Rothman Orthopaedic Institute is the first of its kind in the Philadelphia metro area and one of only several such programs specializing in the comprehensive care of the female athlete in the country.
    Read More
1 of 1
You are using an unsupported version of Internet Explorer. To ensure security, performance, and full functionality, please upgrade to an up-to-date browser.