Can You Run on a Stress Fracture?

Something that you really shouldn’t be asking me, you’re here, you clicked on this video, maybe you searched for it. Can you run with a stress fracture? Now I know you’re dedicated if you’re asking this question.

Something that you really shouldn’t be asking me, you’re here, you clicked on this video, maybe you searched for it. Can you run with a stress fracture? Now I know you’re dedicated if you’re asking this question.


If you haven’t been with me here before, I’m Jesse Funk. This is a show I call Runner’s High. You’re gonna want to hit that subscribe button to stick around for more episodes of this show every Tuesday and Thursday, and I talked about everything running. Now, we want to talk about stress fractures, which happened to the best of us, myself included. I have one right now.

This is only the third time in my 20 years of running where I’ve had a stress fracture. This time being the most anomalous, really. But you want to know, can you run on a stress fracture? Now, I’ll say, can you run a stress fracture? Yes. Should you run on a stress fracture? Which is the question you should be asking. No, you really shouldn’t.

Now I say that, can you run a stress fracture with a yes, because especially this time, in fact, I was. And I didn’t really know it. My foot actually just kind of felt sore. I was running on it and then I got to a point I came to a run and it just -- I just knew I could not complete another run without it affecting how I was running. And I actually think it was affecting a little bit how I was running anyway, but I hadn’t noticed it was so subtle. Took a week off, went out for another run, just a four-miler.

Normally it would be like 13 on that day. And by the end of it, getting sharp pains, I had to stop. I went to the podiatrist, got it checked out, he confirmed yep, it is a stress factor. It’s not extensor tendonitis like I thought it was in a previous video. And so I got to take time off because running on it is only going to make it worse.

So, can you run on it? Yes, I did for several weeks. What he said to me, when he saw the X-rays was, this has already been healing for three or four weeks. And typically, I say it’s like five weeks before you should get back to running.

So, mine was minor enough that I ran on it, it felt like a sore foot, it felt like, you know, just a soft tissue injury where I didn’t really want to put a ton of pressure on it. But I was still going and doing my normal weekly mileage. But it really should have stopped earlier. Now if I had gotten bigger signals to stop, I would have stopped just like when I did. But you cannot heal a stress fracture by continuing to put the stress on it. So, that’s the long and short of it, you should not run on the stress fracture.

That being said, you can, like me, do cross-training in the meantime, if you don’t put stress on that foot if there’s no pain because of it. Like, in particular, I swim and bike. You know, I have a triathlon background post-college, I did triathlon for almost a decade. And so I still maintain some fitness in those sports. So, it’s easy for me to go and cross-train six days a week in those because I maintain some of those while I’m doing my run schedule now versus doing nothing.

Now, if you don’t do those things normally, don’t try to replace all of your calorie burn from running with swimming or biking. You’re probably going to introduce yourself in a different way. But you can do these other things to try to keep your fitness up. You are going to lose a little bit of fitness. That’s okay because you are playing the long game.

Anytime you’re a runner, especially a long-distance runner, you’re playing the long game. You accumulate all of your fitness over years and years. The peak comes after consistent training over time and time and time and more time. So, don’t get disheartened by a short timeline, which it feels like a long time, five weeks from my suggestion by the podiatrist.

But five weeks is not that much time. I know if you are running in school right now, it is going to seem like an eternity. Five races possibly coming and going. Even more than that in some schedules if you’re in high school, sometimes college, but that seems like a lot, but it’s really not. Five weeks is not a long time in the longevity of your life. So, be patient, stay off of it. Take care of it because if it becomes worse, it’s going to take even longer to heal. So, please take my advice.

Don’t run on it if you notice it, get it checked out as soon as you can even if you think it’s going to be a stress fracture. That’s what you got to do. Stay off it, cross-train, and then you’ll be good to go soon.

What have you gone through with your stress fracture? What’s your story? Leave it in the comments below. One thing that I find helpful is when people share stories with me, I share stories with you, we can get some kind of camaraderie going on. It makes you feel better to know you’re not alone going through these things. So, if you can share your experience down in the comments below for other runners to commiserate with, that would be much appreciated by me and them as well. I’ll see you next time on the next episode or on Runner’s High.


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