What Is Metatarsalgia?

Metatarsalgia is described as a shooting pain in the ball of your foot. The ball of your foot is the space under your feet between your second toe and your arch. Metatarsalgia is named after the five metatarsal bones that are in the middle of your foot that connect to the toes. The metatarsal bones are responsible for absorbing your body weight as you walk or stand. 

The most common reasons for the development of metatarsalgia involve sport-related injuries from running and jumping, as well as shoes that are ill-fitting. Metatarsalgia can also form because of other foot abnormalities or diseases. 

While metatarsalgia isn’t too severe, it can still interfere with your day-to-day life and cause a significant amount of discomfort or pain. Luckily, there are many distinct types of treatment available to prevent or manage the condition.


What Are the Symptoms of Metatarsalgia?

Pain is the main identifier of metatarsalgia and may gradually worsen over time. You may experience periods of rest or relaxation in which the pain subsides, only for it to get painful again when you walk, run, or stand. 

Some symptoms you may feel include:

  • Feeling as though you are walking on a pebble or rock
  • A burning feeling or shooting pain in the ball of your foot
  • Pain that gets worse as you stand, walk, run, or flex your feet 
  • A numbness or tingling feeling in your toes

When To See a Doctor

It can be difficult to determine when it’s necessary to see a doctor for foot aches, as not all foot pain is serious. In some cases, it can be managed by changing footwear or minimizing the number of exercises you do on your feet. If your foot pain is persistent and affects how you walk or perform other activities, then it shouldn’t be ignored. Make an appointment with a foot specialist if the pain in the ball of your foot is unbearable.


What Causes Metatarsalgia?

The most common causes of metatarsalgia are high-impact sports activities that add pressure on the five metatarsal bones that cause forefront pain in the foot. These activities, such as running, can put pressure and constant force on the ball of your foot, which can lead to inflammation in the metatarsal area. 

Other causes of metatarsalgia pain include the following:

  • Shoes that don’t fit properly - a shoe that’s too tight can squeeze your foot and put pressure on your metatarsal bones. 
  • If you wear high heels or sneakers with no arch support, it can cause you to put more weight on the ball of your foot.
  • Foot abnormalities: A second toe that is longer than your big toe, high arches, flat feet, bunions, and hammertoes 
  • Extra weight from pregnancy or being overweight can add pressure to the metatarsal bones

Some other conditions and diseases can also produce the development of metatarsalgia, such as:

  • Morton’s neuroma
  • Bursitis in the ball of the foot 
  • Arthritis in the feet
  • Gout 
  • Stress fracture



How Is Metatarsalgia Diagnosed? 

A doctor can observe how you walk and examine your foot to get an indication of where the pain is stemming from. They may ask about your activities, exercises, and job to determine when the pain first began. 

If your doctor believes the pain has come from another cause, then they may run tests. These tests include:

  • An ultrasound to look at whether the soft tissue under the foot is the problem, as it may be a cause of bursitis or Morton’s neuroma
  • A MIR (magnetic resonance imaging) to locate injuries or arthritis 
  • An x-ray to see if there has been a stress fracture 
  • A blood test to indicate if there are any traces of uric acid, which is common in gout


How Do You Treat Metatarsalgia?

Treatment options for metatarsalgia will depend on the cause and severity of the foot pain. Often, staying off your feet, changing your footwear, or switching to orthotics can assist in relieving the pain. Orthotic insoles can be crafted by one of our skilled foot specialists to produce a customized fit for your unique needs. Custom orthotics provide the correct support and comfort needed if you’re dealing with foot problems. 

Home Remedies 

Some at-home remedies include the following:

  • Deciding to wear shoes that offer more support and comfortability
  • Avoiding high heels
  • A reduction in the number of high-impact sports
  • Resting and elevating your feet after activities
  • Icing your foot a few times a day for 20 minutes
  • Over-the-counter pain relief medications to assist with pain and inflammation
  • Losing weight

Stretching & Strengthening Exercises

Stretching exercises can help with strengthening the surrounding muscles around the metatarsal bones and alleviate foot pain. You should regularly stretch your Achilles tendon and calf muscles, leading to stronger muscles and ligaments for better weight distribution. These types of exercises also decrease the risk of injuries from high-impact sports activities.

If metatarsalgia is left untreated, it can create serious problems involving your lower legs, hips, and back. If you’re experiencing severe pain, it may be best to book an appointment with a foot specialist to decide on the best course of treatment.

Risk Factors

What Can Put Me at Risk?

There are various risk factors involved in the potential of developing metatarsalgia, such as:

  • Ill-fitting footwear, like tight shoes or high heels - wearing these can put extra pressure on the balls of your feet, which can lead to pain and other foot problems.
  • Shoes that offer no arch supports can strain or cause stress to the ligaments and muscles in your foot. 
  • High arches increase pressure and forefoot pain.
  • Clawed toes or hammertoes disrupt the weight-bearing biomechanics of the foot. 
  • Bunions can develop a deviated big toe and can increase the pressure on the second toe, as well as the third, leading to metatarsalgia. 
  • If you have tight calves, the joints in your feet and ankles get pulled, which also connects to your muscles and ligaments. Due to the pulling, your feet try to adjust to the new change by shifting all your body weight onto the forefront of your foot.
  • If you’re gaining an excessive amount of weight, the metatarsal joints begin to absorb the brunt of the force and weight load as you walk. The amount of pressure on the metatarsal bones can lead to the development of metatarsalgia. 
  • Metatarsalgia can also come with age, as the muscles in your feet begin to weaken.


How Can Metatarsalgia Be Prevented?

Your risk of developing metatarsalgia can be reduced or prevented by the following:

  • Wearing shoes that fit properly and offer healthy biomechanics, as well as weight distribution 
  • Stop wearing high heels, as they are the common cause of most foot conditions.
  • Custom orthotics can evenly redistribute pressure along the bottom of your feet and help with any foot deformities. A foot specialist can fit you with the proper orthotic insoles for your unique situation. 
  • Metatarsal pads and arch supports can offer cushioning for your arches, which can alleviate pain associated with metatarsalgia. 
  • Stretching exercises for your feet and lower limbs can be beneficial in keeping your joints, ligaments, and muscles strong. This way, you aren’t as prone to foot injuries during sporting activities. 

Living with constant foot pain is not an easy thing to deal with. Luckily, our clinic is here to offer you a plethora of services and treatments to alleviate the pains you’re dealing with. Make an appointment with one of our skilled and knowledgeable foot specialists today.



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