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What is a navicular stress fracture?

What is a navicular stress fracture and what causes this injury? Well, your navicular bone is located in your midfoot, next to your cuboid bone. As part of your foot and ankle tarsus, it takes a lot of pressure, and that leaves it vulnerable to injuries such as stress fractures. In a minute, we’ll dive deeper into that idea. But first…

What is a stress fracture?

A kind of overuse injury, stress fractures are small cracks that form in your bone, without fully breaking.  The crack forms if you subject a bone to repeated stress without rest or treatment. Prior to the fracture, your bone may swell. And you may have pain, even before the bone cracks.

Navicular stress fracture: What causes this injury?

Your navicular bone helps support some high-pressure activities, including jumping and running. At the same time, its location deep in your mid foot leaves this bone with a limited blood supply. So, even when it’s hurting, the navicular bone struggles to heal itself from stress. Add in factors such as high-impact sports (track and cross-country, gymnastics and soccer are all hard on the navicular bone); over-training; poor training; poor foot choice; and even foot shape? All of a sudden, you’ve dramatically increased your risk for a navicular bone fracture.

You may notice these symptoms at any time. But you’re most likely to sustain a navicular stress fracture after switching up training routines (making them more frequent or more intense, or even just training for longer time periods.) This injury is also common if you switch to a new training shoe or change your running form.


Signs of a navicular fracture include:

  • Dull, aching pain, usually along the foot’s inner side, close to the arch
  • Pain that gradually worsens, especially after physical activity

Diagnosing a navicular stress fracture

When you come into our Spring or Tomball TX podiatry offices, we’ll examine your foot and ankle. We’ll gently touch the foot near the navicular bone, looking for tenderness. During the exam, we may ask you to hop or stand on your toes, to see if these moves are painful. Finally, we may order x-rays (although this injury isn’t always visible on this kind of imaging.)  Additional scans may be necessary to get the right diagnosis.

Treating a navicular fracture

After diagnosing a navicular stress fracture, we’ll need to keep weight off the affected foot for a minimum of 6 weeks. Usually, that will mean a cast and crutches. But in some cases, a walking boot may be allowed. While your injury heals, you won’t be able to participate in sports. In fact, most athletes will need between three and eight months of rest from sporting activities before getting back in the game.

Rehab after a navicular stress fracture

Once you’re pain-free, and your stress fracture is healed, you can slowly ease back into sports. In the first two weeks after your recovery, you’ll be free to go about your normal daily activity. But all workouts should be limited to the water, where there’s little to no impact on your feet.

After this period, if your pain hasn’t returned, you can graduate to slightly higher impact activities, making sure to take rest days in between workouts; to limit your active time; and to listen to your body. Remember, during this period your navicular bone will still be vulnerable to re-injury. So we often recommend working with our in-house athletic trainer in order to rebuild your strength without compromising your recovery.

Concerned that you or your child may be dealing with a navicular stress fracture? Stop working out right away and schedule an appointment with our Spring or Tomball TX podiatrists. We have in-house x-rays to help you get the right diagnosis, and to start your road to recovery as soon as possible.