What is it?
Metatarsalgia is a condition in which the ball of your foot becomes painful and inflamed.
What causes them?
Sometimes a single factor can lead to metatarsalgia. More often, several factors are involved, including:
- Intense training or activity.Distance runners are at risk of metatarsalgia, primarily because the front of the foot absorbs significant force when a person runs. But anyone who participates in a high-impact sport is at risk, especially if your shoes fit poorly or are worn.
- Certain foot shapes.A high arch can put extra pressure on the metatarsals. So can having a second toe that's longer than the big toe, which causes more weight than normal to be shifted to the second metatarsal head.
- Foot deformities.Wearing too-small shoes or high heels can cause your foot to be misshapen. A downward-curling toe (hammertoe) and swollen, painful bumps at the base of your big toes (bunions) can cause metatarsalgia.
- Excess weight.Because most of your body weight transfers to your forefoot when you move, extra pounds mean more pressure on your metatarsals. Losing weight might reduce or eliminate symptoms.
- Poorly fitting shoes.High heels, which transfer extra weight to the front of your foot, are a common cause of metatarsalgia in women. Shoes with a narrow toe box or athletic shoes that lack support and padding also can contribute to the problem.
- Stress fractures.Small breaks in the metatarsals or toe bones can be painful and change the way you put weight on your foot.
- Morton's neuroma.This noncancerous growth of fibrous tissue around a nerve usually occurs between the third and fourth metatarsal heads. It causes symptoms that are similar to metatarsalgia and can also contribute to metatarsal stress.
- Sharp, aching or burning painin the ball of your foot — the part of the sole just behind your toes
- Pain that worsenswhen you stand, run, flex your feet or walk — especially barefoot on a hard surface — and improves when you rest
- Sharp or shooting pain,numbness, or tingling in your toes
- A feeling ofhaving a pebble in your shoe
How to Treat:
Although generally not serious, metatarsalgia can sideline you. Fortunately, at-home treatments, such as ice and rest, often relieve symptoms. Wearing proper footwear with shock-absorbing insoles or arch supports might prevent or minimize future problems with metatarsalgia.
To relieve metatarsalgia pain, the doctor may have you:
- Stay off your feet. Avoid high impact activities for a while and prop up your injured foot when you can.
- Ice the injured foot. Try rolling it over a frozen water bottle.
- Use a pressure bandage.
- Wear cushioned pads, arch supports or other orthotics in your shoes.
- Do gentle stretching and strengthening exercises.