Metatarsal foot stress fractures while swimming

A metatarsal stress fracture on the foot is considered as a small or incomplete break in one of the bones in the feet which are long bones that connect to the toes. The metatarsal stress fractures typically affect the second metatarsal. This is considered as a common overuse injury and quite common among athletes. Always bear in mind that rest is often the prescribed mode of treatment for a stress fracture. In most cases, swimming can be an acceptable form of exercise.

What are the symptoms?

When it comes to a metatarsal stress fracture, it is a result of constant deterioration on the metatarsal bones. The signs and symptoms of a stress fracture tend to increase when the individual engages in physical activity and subsides with rest. The pain, aches, tenderness, swelling and weakness are indications of a metatarsal stress fracture. In most cases, the individual might also have difficulty bearing weight on the affected foot.

What are the possible causes?

Foot stress fracture

The pain, aches, tenderness, swelling and weakness are indications of a metatarsal stress fracture.

Stress fractures are often seen once there is an increase in the training intensity and duration. Constant pounding motions on the foot including running can also lead to a stress fracture.

Poor physical conditioning, biomechanical abnormalities, running on hard surfaces and osteoporosis puts the individual at high risk for stress fractures. Women and those who have sustained a previous metatarsal stress fracture are at higher risk.

Diagnosis and treatment

A stress fracture is diagnosed with physical examination and imaging studies. An MRI is often utilized to detect a stress fracture. This is due to the fact that an X-ray will rarely reveal an early stress fracture.

The treatment includes getting enough rest from the activity that triggered the injury in the first place. Using shoes that have a stiff sole is also recommended. A cast or a removable walking boot might also be used. The doctor might also encourage the use of crutches to promote the healing process. As for surgery, it is rarely required.

Cross training

In most cases, it usually takes 6-8 weeks for a stress fracture to properly heal. During this period, a doctor should be consulted regarding the possibility of cross training. The doctor will allow the individual to engage in exercises that does not involve the foot or ankle. Always bear in mind that cross training can also keep you in shape while allowing the foot to rest. Good examples of cross training include cycling and swimming.


Swimming is a low-impact form of cardiovascular exercise. Take note that swimming provides the individual with advantages of a full cardiovascular workout without putting any stress on the inferior extremities including the metatarsal bones.

The buoyancy of water can also help reduce the pain of the stress fracture. The resistance of water makes it possible for the individual to perform exercises that are painful on land. The best way to maintain endurance is to engage in swimming for 30 minutes at a time for 5 days per week. In addition, swimming cannot cause or aggravate a metatarsal stress fracture.


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