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High-Impact Activity and Its Effects on Your Feet and Ankles

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As an avid runner who has been known to log over 120 miles in two weeks and who has been running for over three decades, since the age of 12, I am amazed at how well my feet have withstood the test of time in terms of not sustaining any sort of stress fracture.

Perhaps I am just fortunate enough to have good genetics and solid bone structure, but it did lead me to do a bit of research on the subject. In my mid 40s now, I want to make sure I can continue with my daily runs without incident well into my 90s.

According to the online source “Your Orthopaedic Connection,” a stress fracture is a small crack in the bone. These fractures can develop through overuse due to high-impact activities, such as running or basketball. Most of these fractures occur in the bones that bear the most weight in the lower legs and in the feet. When one is engaged in a high-impact sport, which also includes tennis, track and field, gymnastics, and dance, the repeated stress caused by the foot striking the ground can create problems.

Overuse is the culprit. When muscles become tired, they lose their ability to reduce the shock of repeated impacts. As such, the muscles transfer the stress to the bones, resulting in small cracks or fractures. Stress fractures of the foot are most commonly noted in the second and third metatarsals. They are also common in the heel and in the outer bone of the lower leg, as well as on the bone that rest on top of the midfoot.

When you increase your activity through frequency, duration, or intensity, you are setting things up for the possibility of a stress fracture. Even those who do not engage in physical fitness activities can be at risk. Osteoporosis or other diseases can contribute to weakened bones and resulting fractures. This is referred to as bone insufficiency.

Aside from over-conditioning, athletes who use improper equipment, such as worn or stiff shoes, are at risk for stress fractures. Even going from a treadmill to the uneven pavement of the outdoors for running purposes can contribute to a fracture.

It is advisable to engage in proper training or techniques when involved in high-impact activities.

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HERWriter Guide

Hi Ann - Thanks for this comprehensive look at stress fractures, especially the information on what causes them and how we can protect ourselves. We seem to get questions about stress fractures after the fact, but your article provides helpful information that we can use to avoid getting them. Thanks!
Take good care,

November 11, 2009 - 5:33pm
(reply to Pat Elliott)

Thanks, Pat. I am simply grateful that my feet have put up with all of the pounding I do every day with my intensive runs. I plan on running still when I am 100 years old, so I better treat my feet well. Guess I will have to convince my husband that I need more foot rubs, huh?

November 11, 2009 - 7:15pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.