Abstract In this paper we propose a fatigue endurance criterion suitable for mechanical components under high stress gradients. It is composed of two stages in order to predict both short and long crack arrest. In the first stage, a non-local multiaxial fatigue criterion measures the potential for crack initiation/short crack arrest. In the second stage, linear elastic fracture mechanics is used to evaluate the possibility of long crack arrest. The predictions of the fatigue criterion are compared with available experimental data obtained with cylinder-flat contacts under partial slip, fretting wear conditions. The results show that the proposed criterion can describe the endurance mechanisms observed in the experimental data.