It's been a week now since I ran the second Yateley 10k in which I cracked 45 minutes, but also developed a pain on the top of my foot and I think the top-of-foot-pain (ToFP) may be a stress fracture of the 3rd metatarsal.

The morning after the race I woke up with one big fat and relatively sore left foot. As long as I didn't wiggle my toes too vigorously or put any weight on my foot whilst it was flat on the ground, it was fine and pain free...

Me: Doctor, it hurts when I do this.
Dr: Well, don't do that

Given it's rather large and tender state I hit the internet to do a bit of self-diagnosis. After a bit of searching three, possibilities came up:

Given the size and tenderness of the top of my foot (too big and tender to easily diagnose the above), I decided not to go to the doctor. I didn't want to try driving and wasn't too confident they'd be able to diagnose much from my fat foot without an X-ray, and even then there's a good chance they wouldn't be able to see a problem. If it was one of the first two, there's also very little that could be done anyway. I'm also a firm believer in if it's something you can heal yourself without any problems or too much discomfort, then don't waste the NHS's time and money - there are much sicker and more broken people than me.

Instead I spent the next few days resting and icing my foot at regular intervals. This did a good job of reducing the pain and swelling to the point where I could try a bit more self-diagnosis. Based on the information at the above links and other places on the internet, I ruled out Morton's neuroma very quickly - the pain is too high up on the top of my foot. With a bit more poking and prodding and toe wiggling, I think I've narrowed it down to a stress fracture of the 3rd metatarsal: I can easily pin-point the exact spot on the top of my foot where it hurts and it's consistent with the symptoms of a stress fracture.

Now to try and work out how I got the stress fracture in the first place. I have a few theories, and these are really just that: theories and a few accompanying thoughts about each:

  • Sloppy form on my left side:

    Over the past few months I have noticed that my left ankle has felt a bit stiff and tender after the longer runs. I didn't feel this on my right ankle, so one possible theory is I'm not relaxing my left ankle enough just before impact and thus not allowing the impact to be absorbed properly.

    There could also be a twisting action or incorrect landing as I found during the race the twisting my foot inwards slightly seems to reduce the pain on the top of my foot. That said, that could have just been a coping mechanism and not really indicative of an odd landing, especially as I haven't had a blister on my left foot in a long long time.

  • Bad form whilst racing in Vibrams earlier in the month:

    In the middle of June I ran the Forest Five and as it was off road on terrain too rough to go barefoot, I ran in my Vibrams. It's certainly quite possible that under race conditions, with less sensory feedback, that I could have slammed my feet down a bit harder than usual and set things in motion.

    I'm doubtful this is the primary cause as I didn't actually experience any discomfort during or after this race, but I suppose just enough damage could have been done.

  • General over use and my left foot just happened to be the weakest link:

    In the months and weeks building up to the second race I'd increased my mileage quite a bit and also threw in quite a few races.

    I'm doubtful the mileage is the cause as I've been quite good at increasing this slowly, however the racing could be partly responsible as it's harder to keep good form at pace, especially the 5k's on grass in which I've caught myself several times running with a slightly different form.

So with these thoughts out on paper, so to speak, I'm inclined to believe the cause of the stress fracture is probably the first theory with a little bit of the third, so I'll be paying special attention to my form on my return to running.

As a self-certified doctor - Dr Seymour PhD has a nice ring to it 🙂 - I've put myself on a 4 to 6 week break from running to give my foot a chance to heal. Sadly this means I'll probably miss the 3rd of the Yateley 10k races, but that's a small price to pay for longevity in barefoot running.

I'll be keeping my fitness levels up with a lot of cycling, rowing and a few weights sessions so hopefully I won't lose too much fitness. I'll also be doing as much walking around barefoot as possible to try and ensure my feet don't soften up too much either.

Who knows, I may come back stronger and fitter than I went out. Actually, it would be good if I come back a bit lighter too.