Ball of foot pain, also known as metatarsalgia, is a very common complaint. Many people suffer from pain and discomfort in the forefoot. There are so many reasons why someone might end up with metatarsalgia and because of this, it is important to first figure out the underlying cause before treatment can begin. Depending on the severity, some simple lifestyle changes may be all that is needed.

What are the Signs of Metatarsalgia?

Since metatarsalgia is actually a symptom of a greater problem and not a condition on its own it can be difficult to know what to look for. Some of the symptoms you may experience include sharp pain in the ball of your foot, burning or tingling, pain that becomes worse with physical activity (especially running or jumping) and becomes better with rest, or a feeling as though you are walking with a pebble inside your shoe. These symptoms may develop suddenly, but oftentimes they become worse over time. The good news is if you get treatment as soon as you notice signs of metatarsalgia you can usually nip it in the bud very quickly.

What Can Lead to Metatarsalgia?

There are many different things that can ultimately lead to ball of foot pain. It’s important to figure out the underlying cause quickly so that you can begin treatment immediately and minimize your pain and discomfort. You may notice pain in the ball of your foot if:

  • You are a runner who has very rapidly increased the speed or intensity of your runs. Your body needs time to gradually warm up to new speeds and intensities.
  • You have a high arch. If your arches are higher than average you are putting excessive strain on your metatarsals, which can lead to inflammation and pain.
  • You have another foot deformity such as hammertoes or bunions. These types of deformities can lead to a misshapen foot, which can lead to pain.
  • You are overweight. Excess weight on your feet can ultimately result in pain in the forefoot area.
  • You wear shoes that don’t fit properly. Shoes that put extra pressure on your toes, such as high heels, can have the undesired effect of foot pain.

Treating Ball of Foot Pain

Once you’ve figured out the underlying cause you can begin treatment for ball of foot pain. Some treatment can be as simple as making a few lifestyle changes. For instance, if you are overweight you can get rid of some of those extra pounds by exercising a few times a week and eating healthier foods. If your shoes are the problem you can find a pair that offers more room in the toe area and more support in the arches. You can even add a shoe insert to gain more support where needed. If the pain is very bothersome you should rest your foot and apply ice as needed. In some rare cases these conservative methods are not enough and surgery may be required.

Dr. Viedra V. Elison
Founder and Managing Partner of Fixing Feet Institute

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