how to avoid stress fractures
Sports / Orthopedic

How to Avoid Stress Fractures This Spring

May 8 2024

Got spring fever? More like spring fractures! After being cooped up during the months of winter cold, we’re all ready to get out and start moving. Unfortunately, that sudden change in activity levels can have negative consequences. Understanding how to avoid stress fractures can help you.

“I see most stress fractures when the weather turns warm, because everyone wants to go out running – they’ve been waiting all winter to go out running,” Michael Sims, MD, a foot and ankle surgeon with Bon Secours Piedmont Orthopedics, says. “It has everything to do with having a low-activity lifestyle and ramping up to a high-activity lifestyle pretty quickly.”

Tips on how to avoid stress fractures

Stress fractures are tiny breaks or small cracks caused by repeated impact on a bone that’s become weak from overuse. This can occur on any weight-bearing bone, but feet are especially vulnerable. So, the best first step in prevention is finding the right footwear.

Proper footwear

High-impact sports like distance running and some cross-training activities can be tough on your bones. Without the right shoes, your risk of stress fractures goes up.

“The best way to prevent stress fractures is to have a good, sturdy pair of tennis shoes,” Dr. Sims shares. “A thick-soled, rigid shoe is the best one to run in or even for walking. The idea is to evenly disperse the force throughout the foot. Some of these leisure and lifestyle sneakers – you think because they’re cushioned that they help – but they’re too flimsy. They bend too much.”

Increasing activity slowly

If the spring weather has you itching to do more outdoor activities, it’s important to start slow. A stress fracture is an overuse injury, so whether you’re starting a new activity for the first time or you’re returning to one that you haven’t done in a while, pacing yourself is key to staying injury-free.

“If you used to be able to run or walk two miles, don’t start at two miles,” Dr. Sims suggests. “Start at half a mile and do that for a week to allow your body to build up strength based on your usage. Your bones will be stronger if you use them more, but they need that acclimation period to build up that strength so they don’t develop stress fractures.”

Listen to your body

It’s natural to experience some soreness after exercising, especially if it follows a hiatus from physical activity. However, if you feel pain or have swelling – especially for a prolonged period – it may be a sign that a stress fracture has already developed.

“The number one thing I tell patients is if you start to develop foot soreness or pain after you’re initially starting to walk, don’t try to power through,” Dr. Sims says. “Give it about a week off because if your body is telling you ‘I’m hurting,’ it’s because it’s hurting, and you need to back away. Then try again a week later and do a slower buildup. That may help you avoid a doctor’s visit.”

Get your rest

While physical therapy is sometimes an option, rest is one of the best treatments for a stress fracture. Sometimes shoe inserts or a walking boot can also be used to minimize the amount of stress on your foot. Calcium and vitamin D can help as well – Dr. Sims says he prescribes extra vitamin D to his patients, too.

“Vitamin D is something many people are somewhat deficient in, especially coming out of winter when we’ve been pent up indoors,” he says. “Vitamin D helps increase the amount of calcium your body absorbs, which helps maintain strong bones.”

Now that you better understand how to avoid stress fractures, enjoy your spring without a bone break by easing into any new exercise routines, increasing your vitamin D intake and investing in the right shoes.

Learn more about the orthopedics and sports medicine services we offer at Bon Secours.

Related Posts

Please review our Terms of Use before commenting.