March Stress Fracture
(Stress Fracture, March; Stress Fracture of Metatarsal Bone; Fatigue Fracture)
A march stress fracture is a small break in a metatarsal bone of the foot that occurs without a major traumatic episode. There are five metatarsal bones in each foot. They are located in the area between your toes and your ankle. They were called march fractures because they were first seen in military recruits from too much marching and still do occur in that group.
This condition can be treated. Contact your doctor if you think you may have a march stress fracture.
These factors increase your chance of a march stress fracture. Tell your doctor if you have any of these risk factors:
If you have any of these symptoms do not assume it is due to a march stress fracture. These symptoms may be caused by other conditions. Tell your doctor if you have any of these:
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You may be referred to a specialist. An orthopedist focuses on bones. A sports medicine physician works on sport related injuries.
To search for a break in the bone the following tests may be done:
Stress fractures are treated with rest and nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). You will need to rest your foot for 3-6 weeks. Your doctor may recommend crutches for a week or two so that you don’t put any weight on your foot. Sometimes a brace or cast is used for a short time to aid healing.
Once you are able to move without pain, your doctor will allow you to return to normal activities. Gradually increase your activity over several weeks.
To help reduce your chance of a stress fracture, take the following steps:
of Orthopaedic Surgeons
of Podiatric Sports Medicine
American Physical Therapy Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Fractures, an overview. American Society of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at:
March fracture. DynaMed website. Available at:
Metatarsal stress fracture. Merck Manuel website. Available at:
Metatarsal stress fractures. Sports injury website. Available at:
What is a stress fracture and how should it be treated? American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine website. Available at:
Last reviewed September 2013 by Michael Woods, MD