Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Sudden Sedentary-Summer Onset Syndrome

...otherwise known as a stress fracture

I got home from the emergency room about 11pm last night. Xrays from three different angles showed a perfectly normal foot. Stepping on the floor provides the unpleasant illusion of being impaled on an inch diameter stake.

I had responded to an ad on Craigslist of a fellow looking for a training partner for a 50 mile race. I answered saying I wasn't training for a 50 miler but I would be willing accompany him on any distance he wanted. We met at the Mt. Sanitas trailhead on the western edge of Boulder. The run would be a 1450 ft. elevation gain and about a mile and a third to the summit and then back down. We walked a couple hundred yards getting acquainted and started to jog as the trail began to rise.

I felt a sudden sharp pain, let out a yell, and immediately stopped, thinking I had stepped on a rock. I quickly could tell that I hadn't stepped on a rock because I would have felt as if the sole of my foot were bruised. There was a stabbing pain radiating to the top of my right foot. On my run the previous day there had been an unusual dull pain in the same area and I had felt an occasional twinge during the day. My new soon to be ex running partner said it was a bad sign that the pain was on top; he said the same thing had happened to him once and he had broken three bones in his foot. We shook hands, he headed up, and I hobbled down.

As I dragged myself up the road to the parking lot I could hear a car alarm and suddenly an SUV came speeding out of the lot; it took me a moment to put one and one together but I discovered a Jeep Liberty with a smashed out window. I called 911 but told them I wasn't going to stick around because I had my own issue to attend to.

Riding the motorcycle home was not so difficult because shifting is done with the left foot and the strongest braking is down with the hand brake. Normally I would just wait until the next day but I my impression has always been that broken bones are best treated sooner than later. I expected to see splintered bone shards in the Xray but nothing, not a shadow of a line, nor a metatarsal even a millimeter out of place.

I've read about other people's stress fractures; it seems to me they were at least able to walk. What a wimp I am if a fracture that doesn't even show up is this painful, imagine if I were to break a bone enough for it to show on an Xray. The regimen now is ice, ibuprofen, and idleness.

For anyone who reads my blog (I guess that would be my sister) you'll know that I have been running barefoot and minimalistically for about four months so if you want to add me to the statistics of those injured barefoot you can put me down in that column although I now people have had stress fractures with running shoes and increasing my weekly mileage from an average of 30 per week to 45 per week muddy the statistical waters.


  1. Hey John. This sounds almost identical to my stress fracture that I first got last March. Mine was done while running in Vibram Five Fingers, but more the result of stupidity and not wear and tear (I stepped on awkwardly shaped rocks twice while running fast).

    Anyway, very normal for it not to show up on the initial x-rays. In fact, I'd be surprised if it did. It's rare that you can actually see it on an x-ray in the first few days. Calcification of the bones needs to be present for it to show up, and that only happens when the fracture is starting to heal. It takes a few weeks for them to truly show up on x-rays, otherwise an MRI is the only way a doctor will see it.

    You'd think the above would be common sense with doctors, but many primary care doctors are oblivious to that fact. Hence the importance of seeing a specialist.

    You've probably already researched it, but expect around eight weeks for it to heal. If it's severe, perhaps longer. Sounds like that could be the case based on the amount of pain you're feeling. The true test is when you can hop up and down on that foot about half a dozen times and not feel anything.

    Thinking positive, stress fractures due tend to heal up nicely and predictably, unlike soft tissue injuries which are highly unpredictable. Chances are after a couple of months you'll be back at it.

    And with the barefoot running, yes, this can be discouraging. I know I was with my barefoot-related stress fracture. But I've learned to not be so gung-ho with it and also be careful about the surfaces I'm on (ie avoiding technical trails). The relationship with it doesn't have to end, but do what you feel comfortable with.

    Best of luck. Been there, and know your pain (mentally and physically).

  2. Oh no! Sorry to hear about the stress fracture. Rest up - you'll be out there again soon enough!

  3. wow, even swelling up around my ankle.

    Thanks for your support.

    May be looking at baby pictures on this blog for a while.

  4. The foot is swollen! Not that I doubted you, but, yikes!

    Can't say I'm sorry to be seeing more Elliott pics though : )