A fracture (or broken bone) is a disruption, or break, in a bone. Some fractures, called stress fractures, are microscopic, and because they are not displaced, they cannot initially be seen on regular X-rays. After time and healing starts to occur, the bone repair process shows up. Stress fractures occur as a result of repetitive overuse.
In the foot, stress fractures usually are in the metatarsal bones in the ball of the foot, especially the second. Common sites for stress fractures in the leg include the tibia and fibula. Although 50 percent of stress fractures occur in the lower leg, stress fractures can happen to any bone in the body. Medical studies have shown that female athletes seem to experience more stress fractures than men.
There are five metatarsal bones, each of which travels out to a toe in the foot. The metatarsals connect with the tarsal bones in the rear of the foot and the phalanges (toes) in the front of the foot.
There are several kinds of metatarsal fractures, including stress fractures, more acute fractures, and possibly multiple fractures of any of the five metatarsals.
Stress fractures (hairline breaks) are common in the metatarsals. They are usually caused by repetitive stress such as with a new military recruit who has a sudden increase in his/her need to march. Other metatarsal fractures typically result from a direct blow to the foot, resulting from a trauma such as a fall from an elevated height.