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The Stress Fracture Sidestep: A Runner’s Dance

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Close Call.

A few weeks ago, I noticed that my right ankle was purple and swollen. It didn’t hurt, but swelling is never a good sign, right? And purple foods may be fun, but purple feet are another story entirely.

“Please go away,” I silently begged the violet puffiness. Oddly enough, it didn’t listen. (Shocking, I know.) Since there was no pain accompanying the swelling, I decided to continue running like normal. But as the days passed and the swelling remained, I booked a trip to the doctor, just to be sure. Once there, I heard the words that every runner dreads: “You may have a stress fracture. I think you should see an Orthopedist.”

Stress fracture? No no no, please. Something else: a sprain, a strain, something where I can just take a magic pill and make it go away! I was aghast when I googled the recovery period for stress fractures: at least 4-6 weeks. Rationally, I should’ve been thankful that it wasn’t something worse (a broken leg! surgery!). But I wasn’t thinking rationally. The morning of my Orthopedist appointment, I glumly set off for what I figured would be a “goodbye” run.

Lesson #1: Don’t assume things.

After looking at the X-rays, the Orthopedist told me that I didn’t have a stress fracture after all. I wanted to hug him!

Lesson #2: Don’t get upset over something that you don’t know is true.

He examined my feet (Lesson #3: Get a pedicure before going to see a cute foot doctor!) and told me I was a supronator, or underpronator, meaning that my feet don’t roll inward enough, which can cause injuries if the wrong shoes are worn. Runners’ feet are classified in one of three categories: Overpronation, Neutral, and Underpronation or Supronation. I’d previously been told—by running store employees—that my feet were neutral.

Turns out that the swelling in my foot was due to Achilles Tendonitis. The doctor gave me some stretches to do and made me an appointment to get orthotics. He also said I can continue to run. Feeling as if I’d been given a second chance, I walked out of the office with a new appreciation for my health—and a new appreciation for my feet!

Lesson #5: Do NOT take your feet for granted!

Right away, I bought a new pair of shoes, because I’d never had any injury problems until I switched away from them.

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Katie is the baker, photographer, and author of the popular blog Chocolate-Covered Katie. Her favorite food is chocolate, and she believes in eating a balanced diet that includes dessert every single day. More about Katie—> 
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  1. jcd says:

    I’m an underpronator too! The folks at the running shop told me they don’t see to many of our type and said neutral shoes would be my best bet to start out with. I have only started running though, so I don’t have any advice. (I’ll be lurking to see what others say.)

    I wish you well and get better soon!!

  2. fitforfree says:

    Phew for no stress fracture!!
    I have the same problem as you, and got orthotics six months ago and they have done wonders (I have so much less leg soreness when I run now, and increased my mileage without discomfort!!).
    The biggest piece of advice I can give you is MAKE SURE the podiatrist measures your feet properly and checks to see if one foot is larger/one leg is longer. Also, ease into running slowly after you get the orthotics, since everything will be aligned slightly differently, and you don’t want to injure yourself until you’re used to the orthotics. I started wearing them all day (in my casual shoes/boots as well as my running shoes) and that sped up the process!
    Good luck!!

  3. Jenn says:

    Hey Katie, sorry about your Achilles Tendonitis, but I do find it cool that I’m in med school and just learned about that a little while ago. You’re lucky it didn’t cause you any pain, most people experience a lot of pay in the morning when it hasn’t been stretched out yet. And I’m a pronator so I don’t have any tips for ya but hope you get better soon!

  4. Jessica says:

    I am also an underpronator! We have a great running store near us and they are sooo thorough when you want to buy new shoes. Glad it’s not a stree frac!

  5. Go glad you don’t have a stress fracture!! I’m glad you brought this up because I never think about the shoes I’m buying to workout in and have just started paying attention to how important it is. I’m looking forward to reading the comments from everyone to learn more!

    Have a great run today girl!

    …and I hope you got that cute doctors phone number before you left! 😉

  6. Abby says:

    BLAH.. sounds crappy, at least its not a stress fracture. Im sure some of those fudge babies will make ya feel better!! 🙂
    It usually takes something crappy happening for us to realize how lucky we are.

    Rest up 🙂

  7. SO glad to hear it is not a fracture! Whew! I know how miserable it is to think you might have to miss a workout, glad you don’t have to!

    I’m not a runner, I do all my cardio on the summit climber, bicycle, elliptical and my horse, of course! But I will hop on the treadmill for a jog occasionally and I can see how consistent running can take a toll on the body!

    I have the Nike Pegasus too! I love them. EXCEPT I bought them maybe 2 months ago and back then they fit perfectly and now they are slightly too small! Isn’t that so weird? I have no idea how my feet just grew half a size at the age of 27 but seriously, my toes are all cramped and I need to buy a bigger size. Oh well…

    This was a great post with good news, I’m glad you are okay, Katie!

  8. Marina says:

    I’m glad that your exam went well. I have some hip pain after that run I did few weeks ago, maybe I should see a doctor too.

  9. Jessica says:

    Yay for good news! I’m really glad you don’t have a fracture. About two and a half years ago, I tore my achilles tendon when I was running. It took me almost a year to get back on track — eek!! I believe my feet are “neutral” but maybe I should go to the doctor just to be sure! I was miserable having to sit on the sidelines for so long…

  10. JoLynn says:

    So glad to hear it wasn’t a fracture! I’m not much of a runner but I bike, hike, pilates, etc. I might try those Nike Pegasus, I have narrow feet and Nike’s fit so nicely.

    One more thing do you really have to keep showing those yummy raw fudge thingys, I mean I drool all over my key board every time I see them.

  11. tabitha says:

    yay katie!
    glad you can run.
    i was a walker while my husband was working out of town (home with 3 little children alone didn’t allow for run time)
    when he lost his job i started running as a stress reliever
    i LOVED it!!
    such a beautiful time of year too
    i was so upset when i injured my achilles-i’ve never done that. i hobbled for 2 weeks barely walking til my co-workers had me go to the dr
    podiatrist said an insertional achilles tendon tear (where the tendon attaches to the heel)
    i wore a boot for a bit and it did wonders!!
    i’m bootless now and feel good, but i hear it takes months to be able to run again..i go back in a couple weeks
    fortunately it’s been crazy cold and rainy recently so i’m not so miserable on the sidelines

    so…i guess i just stole your space to tell my story…cause my only advice is to take it easy…you don’t want to tear the darned thing!

  12. Glad you didn’t have a stress fracture! As much as I’d love to say I’m a runner, I’m just not. I work out 5 days a week at the gym, but for some reason, I cannot run. Boo!

  13. *Andrea* says:

    haha my foot dr. is a hottie too 😉 i am an over-pronator?? my feet roll inward.. i use orthodics to keep an arch and try and stretch the balls of my feet. other than that i don’t do much… but i only run about 3-6 miles 5-6 days a week.

  14. Caroline says:

    Hi Katie,

    I had a fibular stress fracture last year! Basically, it felt like shin splints that just kept getting worse and worse and worse. You can get them if you increase your mileage suddenly, don’t get enough carbs or calories, are amenorrehic, or don’t get enough calcium. However, it seems like you don’t have any of these problems so I would not put you in that risk category.

    I use orthotics now but I don’t really know much about them. My orthopedist just told me to get a certain kind…

    Achilles tendonitis…you can do many stretches found online, try to avoid running on hills for a little while because they are harder on the achilles, do calf raises for strength, and ICE, ICE, baby!!

    And, I know it’s expensive, but change your shoes after 300 miles! I know it seems wasteful to change every six weeks, but it’s a good idea. Seriously, I start to get some niggles after six weeks, but then when I change my shoes, they all go away.

    If you’re really concerned about preventing injuries, you can cross train on the elliptical, in the pool, or doing stationary bike intervals (these are actually a great change of pace and can be even more intense than running if you do them correctly).

    Good luck!

    Your Fellow Runner

  15. Andrea says:

    I’m an overpronator… so the exact opposite. Unfortunately I am also prone to stress fractures, and I can tell you they are no fun! Overtraining is definitely a big culprit here – not just long distances, but speed work too. I hope that your Achilles heals quickly and that you are back to full speed in no time!

  16. My ortho is so cute, too! I definitely create imaginary sexual tension in my head haha.

    So, I’ve had THREE stress fractures. I don’t know why… prettty sure my body just hates me haha. But some things I’ve learned– stretch, stretch, stretch! Do not skimp on stretching. Every time I’ve gotten a stress fracture, it’s stemmed from the areas being too tight. Also I’ve read that strength training really helps in prevention.

    Buena suerte in staying Stress Fx-free!!

  17. elizabeth says:

    yay for no stress fractures!!!!
    i have a neutral foot
    word for getting a pedicure pre-podiatrist visit
    i have been thankfully, injury free but it looks like you’re getting some great advice!
    good luck!

  18. so great that you dont have stress fractures!!!

    i am a runner & nuetral foot

    i would say to make sure to stretch those legs! it is easy to go about your normal running and never stretch out, but stress fractures can come from having very tight muscles!

    MMM i want some fudge babbies!! 🙂

  19. Maggie says:

    I overpronate. I have completely flat feet. (Almost wrote “fat” instead of “flat”, haha.)

  20. Daria @ Daria Can Cook says:

    I’m so happy for your sake that it wasn’t a stress fracture!!! I had a stress fracture in my pelvis (!) back in my serious running days and it was miserable.

    The best things you can do to avoid stress fractures are to stay on soft surfaces, which if I remember correctly, you do, and to not overtrain. The 2nd one is harder! But it can help to take some cross training days or to run a mile or two less than usual every now and then.

    I hope the new shoes help the tendonitis! It might help too to roll your foot around on a tennis ball. This loosens up all those tendons and muscles that usually get neglected when we stretch. Just take a tennis ball and roll it around under your foot as hard as you can stand. It might hurt at first but the more you do it the easier it gets.

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