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I'm a 35-year-old woman who has been running on and off since high school. I never ran longer distances, though, until last year, when I started training for a half marathon (with the ultimate goal of running the Marine Corps Marathon). Two weeks before the race, I developed pain in my right foot, and lo and behold, I had a 4th metatarsal stress fracture. I was in a boot for 6 weeks and didn't even try running for months after that -- I stayed in shape by swimming (which I had also done in high school) and cycling. I also got pregnant a few months later. I started running again when I was pregnant and felt fine, but I only ran once or twice a week at the most. I did the Army 10-Miler when I was 4 mths pregnant and had no problems (I didn't really train and just went out and did it). I ran once a week until I was about 6 months pregnant, and started up again a month after I had my baby. Two wks ago I started training for MCM, and I've been noticing little painful twinges in my foot here and there. It's been 15 months since the injury. What's going on?? Isn't it healed? My sports medicine doctor had told me that I only needed 2-3 weeks in the boot, and I stayed in it for 6 just to make sure... and I didn't even TRY to run for MONTHS! I thought stress fractures were supposed to heal stronger than ever. Is there anything that I can do to prevent myself from re-fracturing it? I have stability shoes with extra cushioning. I am back to my pre-pregnancy weight so there isn't extra pounding on my foot. I really want to run this race more than anything but I don't want to hurt myself. Thanks in advance!
Sharp pain in the metatarsal area is often due to a neuroma, an inflamed area of thickened tissue around a nerve trapped betwen the metatarsals. The pain is severe enough to be misdiagnosed as a stress fracture, which is difficult to see on an x-ray until it has begun to heal, at which time a chosen form of therapy has often begun.
Your recent increase in mileage is reason enough to have developed one or more, even though you have been a runner for years. There are many ways of dealing with neuromas, from strategically placed pads to injections to surgery, but we are not sure at this point if a neuroma is responsible for your pain. I think the possibility should be explored by your MD, but in the meantime you can compare notes with others in this popular thread...