Everything You Need To Know About March Fractures (Metatarsal Stress Fractures)

Our feet enable us to walk, run, and perform various activities. However, they can also be prone to injuries with constant use and pressure, especially for athletes and active individuals. Among the common foot injuries, march fractures or metatarsal stress fractures are a prevalent concern.

Understanding their causes, diagnosis, treatment, and preventive measures is crucial for managing these injuries effectively and ensuring a swift recovery. Let’s explore everything you need to know about march fractures.

What Are March Fractures, and How Do You Get Them?

Woman running on road.

A march fracture is a stress fracture in one or more metatarsal bones, the long bones connecting the toes to the midfoot. The condition got its name from military recruits who developed the fracture from marching for long distances. However, this type of injury is not exclusive to military personnel and can occur in anyone.

Common Causes of March Fractures

Woman with high heal shoes

March fractures typically result from repetitive stress or overuse of the foot, leading to tiny cracks in the metatarsal bones. Some common causes include:

  • Overloading and extreme pressure on the foot
  • Excessive physical activity or high-impact sports
  • Wearing improper footwear
  • A sudden increase in training intensity or duration
  • Abnormalities in foot structure
  • Nutritional deficiencies, particularly in calcium and vitamin D

These factors can weaken the bones and make them more susceptible to fractures.

How To Diagnose March Fractures

Metatarsal Stress Fracture (March Fractures)

Diagnosing march fractures requires a thorough examination by a healthcare professional, often an orthopedic specialist. Symptoms may include:

  • Localized pain
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Tenderness
  • Bruising

Imaging tests such as X-rays, MRI scans, or bone scans may be necessary to confirm the diagnosis, as stress fractures may not always be visible on initial X-rays.

How To Treat March Fractures

Treatment for march fractures typically involves a combination of rest, immobilization, and gradual rehabilitation. Rest is essential to prevent further damage and promote healing. Ice therapy, acetaminophen (Tylenol), or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may help with pain and inflammation.

For severe cases, immobilization of the foot is crucial to promote healing and prevent aggravating the injury. This treatment may involve wearing a walking boot, using crutches, or avoiding weight-bearing activities for a specific period.

Once the initial healing phase is over, rehabilitation exercises and physical therapy can help restore strength and mobility to the foot and prevent future injuries. Additionally, addressing any underlying factors contributing to the fracture, such as improper footwear or nutritional deficiencies, is crucial to prevent reoccurrence.

How To Avoid March Fractures in the Future

Couple wearing athletic shoes.


Preventing march fractures involves taking proactive measures to reduce the risk of overuse and minimize stress on the foot bones. Here are some strategies to help avoid these injuries:

  • Gradual Progression: Avoid sudden increases in training intensity or duration. Gradually increase your activity level to allow your bones and muscles to adapt safely.
  • Proper Footwear: Wear supportive and properly fitting footwear suitable for your activity. Replace worn-out shoes regularly to ensure adequate cushioning and support.
  • Cross-Training: Incorporate various activities into your fitness routine to reduce repetitive stress on specific muscles and bones. Cross-training can help improve overall fitness while reducing the risk of overuse injuries.
  • Strength and Flexibility: Maintain strong and flexible muscles around the foot and ankle through regular strength and flexibility exercises. These exercises help distribute forces more evenly and reduce the strain on individual bones.
  • Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to any signs of discomfort or pain during physical activity. If you experience persistent pain or discomfort, especially in the foot or lower leg, reduce or modify your activity level and seek medical evaluation if necessary.

Following these preventive measures and adopting a cautious approach to training can significantly reduce the risk of developing march fractures and other overuse injuries.

The Bottom Line

March fractures or metatarsal stress fractures occur in the metatarsal bones of the foot due to repetitive stress or overuse. Prompt diagnosis and appropriate treatment are essential for a successful recovery and return to activity. By incorporating preventive measures into your fitness routine, you can minimize the risk of these injuries and keep your feet healthy and strong.

If you suspect you may have a march fracture or any other foot injury, the healthcare professionals at OrthoUnited provide expert foot and ankle care to help you get back on your feet.

Schedule an appointment today and take the first step toward a healthier, more active lifestyle.