Navicular Stress Fracture

A navicular stress fracture is a break in the navicular bone, which is one of the tarsal bones located in the middle of the foot. Navicular stress fractures are usually the result of overuse and form over time. Athletes who participate in high-impact sports such as track and field are at greater risk.


The navicular bone transfers force from the ankle to the ball of the foot and is surrounded by cartilage. Because this area sustains repetitive force, it is more susceptible to damage when the cartilage breaks down or the bone experiences weakness. Structural abnormalities in the foot, poor athletic conditioning, and using worn athletic equipment can also lead to navicular stress fractures.


When a navicular stress fracture occurs, gradual aching pain in the middle of the foot is common, as well as swelling and tenderness. Pain usually subsides with rest but will return when activity resumes.


Physicians will review symptoms and conduct a physical exam to diagnose navicular stress fractures. A physical examination will identify tenderness at the top and middle of the foot. Imaging tests such as CT and MRI scans may also be used to pinpoint the exact location of the stress fracture.


Navicular stress fractures are usually treated with a short leg cast and crutches for six to eight weeks. In severe cases, surgery may be required to stabilize the navicular with internal screws.

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