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Family Foot & Ankle

Do You Have a Stone Bruise? (And What to Do About It if You Do)

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There are certain things you should come down hard on. Crime, for example, or your children’s refusal to eat vegetables. When you put your foot down on anything, however, it should not be causing you any discomfort.

This type of pain you may feel is sometimes referred to as a “stone bruise,” but this is a general, catch-all term. You might also hear the term “metatarsalgia” thrown around, which is a more medical term for such pain in the forefoot. But let’s not get hung up on nomenclature; you probably just call it a big pain somewhere in the ball of your foot, or the fat pad on your heel!

What Exactly Is a Stone Bruise?

While it is certainly possible to land on a stone and cause a literal stone bruise on your foot, the name does not mean a stone is required.

A “stone bruise” can be used to refer to any sort of pain in the ball of the foot (usually at the base of the big toe) or heel pad.

This can be—and is often—caused by impacts to these areas of the foot. It may be that you did come down hard on an object such as a stone or other uneven protuberance from the ground. However, it may also be the result of steady, repetitive impacts on the foot. Runners have an increased likelihood of suffering a stone bruise not only due to repeated impacts upon the foot, but also covering ground that might just have some small object lying in wait for them.

The pain from a stone bruise can be relatively mild, or severe enough to slow someone down. The pain can sometimes be described as sharp, tingling, or burning, which can be due to nerves within the foot becoming irritated or inflamed via the injury.

Even if you know you came down hard on a small stone or object, the pain does not always come immediately. Sometimes it builds gradually, and may take a day or two for the discomfort to reach full strength. If the pain is toward the front of your foot, it will often worsen when the toes are curled upward.

What Risk Factors Exist for a Stone Bruise?

Some people are more likely to suffer a stone bruise than others, or have their pain be worse or longer-lasting.

We have already mentioned people who run, but any sort of physical activity that involves repetitive, heavy impacts to the feet from running or jumping will increase the likelihood of this type of injury. This is why we always stress proper conditioning and preventing overuse in athletes; going too hard, too quickly is a road to pain and injury.

However, there are also more internal and intrinsic factors that can increase the likelihood of stone bruises. A structural abnormality, such as flat feet or high arches, can alter the way weight and forces are distributed across each foot, leading to excess pressure and increased chances of injuries in certain areas.

Additional factors to consider include:

  • Excess weight. More weight means more pressure exerted on the feet with every step.
  • Aging. The older you are, the less off a protective fat pad there tends to be along the bottom of the foot.
  • Poor footwear. This can range from athletic shoes whose supportive properties have worn out, to high heels that force excessive pressure toward the front of the foot.
  • Medical conditions. Toe deformities such as bunions and degenerative conditions such as diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis can all affect the structure of the foot in ways that make it more prone to stone bruises and related injuries. 

How are Stone Bruises Treated?

In most cases, a stone bruise can be effectively treated with basic RICE methods: rest, ice, compression, and elevation. The swelling and pain should be expected to improve within a week.

If the pain is not improving, however, or keeps happening, it is time to give us a call.

Perhaps your stone bruise is not a stone bruise after all, but another condition such as stress fractures along the bone. This is also a condition that will require rest, but a different approach may also be necessary.

Additionally, stone bruises or other forms of foot and heel pain that keep returning are a sign that something needs to be changed or addressed.

Such methods of treatment may involve changes in footwear or workout routines. If there is an inherent structural problem in the feet, custom orthotics may be recommended to provide exact cushioning and support where needed, reducing excess stress where it shouldn’t be.

If you have a particularly painful or severe situation that is inhibiting daily mobility, please do not hesitate to contact us right away. We don’t want you to be suffering through excess pain or discomfort if you don’t have to!

Put Your Foot Down—Comfortably

Do not let persistent heel pain or foot pain stand. Whether you believe you have a stone bruise or other malady, give us a call when symptoms aren’t going away!

We have six offices ready and happy to receive you. Give us a call at (513) 728-4800 to schedule an appointment, or fill out our online contact form to have a member of our staff reach out to you.

Dr. Cynthia Miller
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Dr. Cynthia Miller is a board certified podiatrist who has been established in the Cincinnati area since 2004.
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