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What Is a Stone Bruise and What Can You Do About It?

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By Upstep Staff
Romi Hector
Edited by Romi Hector

Updated February 26, 2024.

Person holding their heel and ankle

Foot pain is common among runners. It can occur as pain in the forefoot, pain in the back of the heel, or even bottom midfoot pain. A stone bruise is a type of foot pain that occurs in the ball of your foot or heel pad. It is the general name for any foot pain that feels like stepping on a small stone whenever you put weight onto your foot. It can also refer to the pain caused by actually stepping down on a stone or pebble. In both cases, pain is accompanied by tenderness and inflammation.

This guide discusses the causes, diagnosis, and treatment of stone bruises.

How Are Stone Bruises Caused?

Stone bruises are the aftermath of impact on the ball of the foot or heel pad after stepping on a stone or running on broken ground. It occurs when the bones near the end of the foot press against one another. This affects the nerves, causing them to become painful and inflamed.

Because we spend so much time on our feet, a stone bruise can be extremely painful. The pain can develop instantly, or it can take up to 48 hours before the first pain symptoms develop in some cases.

Apart from stepping on a stone or running on broken ground, any physical activity that requires repetitive heavy impacts on the foot (e.g., running or jumping) can also cause a stone bruise. In fact, heel pain after running is quite common.

Additional factors include structural abnormalities like flat feet or high arches, excess weight, loss of fat padding in the foot, poor footwear, and foot conditions like bunions and rheumatoid arthritis. These all increase the chances of developing a stone bruise.

Self-Diagnosis of Stone Bruises

You can easily diagnose a case of stone bruising by yourself. You should expect to experience foot pain that ranges from mild to severe, usually centered around the ball of the foot or footpad. This pain can be a tingling, shooting, sharp, or burning sensation. It can also develop slowly or abruptly.

You must exercise caution in settling for a diagnosis, as many foot conditions can mimic the symptoms of stone bruises. Some of the most common of these conditions are metatarsalgia, plantar fasciitis, heel spurs, stress fractures, and Morton’s neuroma.

If you suspect it is a stone bruise, but the condition doesn’t improve despite resting and care, consider having your foot checked by a podiatrist or a doctor. It takes on added importance if you notice inflammatory signs like redness, soreness, and swelling.

How to Treat Stone Bruises

Most times, a stone bruise will go away on its own. Sometimes, however, there are recovery delays, and it does not resolve quite as easily. Here are a few things you can do to fast-track the recovery process.

  • Orthotics Orthotics can help in reducing pain from injuries. You can use insoles or running inserts for extra arch support. A metatarsal pad can also be useful in taking the pressure off of the affected area.
  • Rest Most people tend to keep going because it is just a bruise, but this can make it worse. Consider resting the foot. If getting off your feet is impossible, you can immobilize the foot to guarantee that you get off it.
  • Ice You may ice the area for 10–15 minutes at a time to relieve pain. Ice can prevent swelling or control inflammation that may worsen the pain.
  • Medication Try using over-the-counter foot pain relievers or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) to reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Lifestyle modifications If you like to walk around barefoot, you may want to avoid doing that while your bruise heals. Also, you may need to lose weight to reduce the impact of your body weight on the foot as you move around if you’re overweight.
  • Proper footwear There is an ideal kind of footwear for every type of sport. Ensure what you’re wearing fits in with the activity or sport you’re participating in. For example, running shoes have more cushioning than basketball shoes that are designed to be used on wooden courts. If you’re not a sportsman, you can aim for insoles for flat feet that will reduce the pressure on your footpad while the bruise heals. Go for shoes with soft, cushioned soles and a metatarsal pad.

These methods are expected to reduce your symptoms quickly. However, please consult a doctor as soon as possible if these symptoms persist. The doctor will consider your symptoms and perform investigations to rule out similar conditions. The doctor will then make a proper diagnosis and recommend appropriate treatment methods.

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