If you haven't experienced a stress fracture at some point during your life you are lucky, as they are a very common problem especially among runners. This is because as we run and continue to do so, we put stress on our muscles as we know.
There comes a point however if you exercise for too long or go too hard where your muscle doesn't have the energy to take all of the strain, which is then transferred on to your bones. You probably don't notice this because it happens gradually over time, and more often than not is the result of numerous small fractures that develop over time.
The pain you will feel from these fractures is similar to ones you feel from shin splints, so it is easy to confuse the two. The difference is that shin splints are temporary and don't lead to long term damage like stress fractures can.
Stress fractures are most common in runners because of the nature of the sport. Running puts stress on our bones which can cause these fractures, however as we know running can be very beneficial as well if done properly in moderation.
This is why you should gradually increase the difficulty in your training as far as intensity is concerned in a slow manner. Doing so not only will reduce these stress fractures, but will strengthen your legs and reduce the chance for fractures down the line.
What Are the Best Ways to Avoid Stress Fractures?
1-Strengthen Your Calves
One of the most common causes of stress fractures have to do with our biomechanics and how that changes over the course of exercise as we become fatigued. When we are running and our calves become fatigued, it causes us to lift our heels and transfer more of our weight on the front or ball of our foot.
If you quickly glance at the anatomy of the foot, you will see that the bones are thickest in the back towards the heel. This is what usually absorbs the force of your body bouncing up and down while running. When your calves get tired that weight gets transferred on to the bones of your toes, which will result in fractures over time.
2-Thicken Up Your Bones
Another obvious step to reducing fractures is to strengthen up our bones, and many of us first think of calcium. Calcium is definitely one mineral we want to get when it comes to bone health, but we also want to be getting enough magnesium and potassium as well which help our bodies absorb and maintain proper calcium levels.
Dairy products are not only great sources of calcium, but many of them contain a decent amount of potassium and magnesium as well. Greek yogurt is something you should add to your diet because it not only contains all three, but also is an excellent source of protein.
3- Avoid Concrete, Asphalt and Other Hard Surfaces Temporarily
If you are recovering from a stress fracture, you don't necessarily have to avoid running altogether depending on how severe it is, but you want to at least change to another surface.
Next time you want to go out for a run, instead of grabbing your running shoes grab a pair of cleats and head down to the field. Running on a grass surface versus concrete may not seem like a big deal, but it will be a lot less stressful on your bones.
If you have a gym membership, the treadmill is a better option than running on concrete or asphalt, and rowing or using an exercise bike are other good alternatives to running as well.
4-Change Your Footwear
Reducing your chance of getting stress fractures may be as easy as changing your footwear. Everyone has differently shaped feet, so making sure you have the right show might remedy the problem.
People with flat feet for example need to wear shoes with high ankle supports as their ankles are prone to rolling over. People with high arches on the other hand need a more cushioned shoe that provides padding to that high arch.
If you want to spend the money, you can even have orthopedic sneakers specifically made to your own specifications based on the type of foot you have. Inserts are another cheaper option that can help you to avoid stress fractures as well.