Pain in the ball of the foot is often termed “metatarsalgia”. This refers to pain around the metatarsal head areas caused often by overloading pressure over a long period of time. It’s a generic term, much like ‘headache’, but doesn’t give you the actual cause.
Symptoms of metatarsalgia can develop suddenly, especially after an increase in exercise or high-impact activities, but normally the problems develop over time.
Common symptoms of metatarsalgia include:
- Sharp, aching or burning pain in the ball of your foot — the part of the sole just behind the toes
- Pain that intensifies when you stand, walk or run
- Pain that radiates from the balls of the feet into the toes
- Numbness or tingling in the toes
- A feeling in your feet as if you are walking with a pebble in your shoe
- Pain that increases when walking barefoot
Sometimes a single factor can trigger metatarsalgia. More often, multiple factors contribute to the pain, including:
- Over-training or over-activity. Extensive training and high-impact sports, especially running, places an abnormal amount of stress on the balls of the feet, causing irritation, inflammation and pain
- Other foot disorders. High arches, hammertoes, bunions, stress fractures and Morton’s neuroma can all trigger metatarsalgia symptoms
- Poor-fitting footwear. High heels, narrow-toed shoes and shoes without adequate padding can all contribute to metatarsal problems
- Excess weight. Extra weight places excess pressure on your metatarsals
- Aging. The fat pads on the metatarsals thin out as a person ages, diminishing the ability of the metatarsal bones to protect themselves
Although generally not serious, metatarsalgia can disrupt your day to day activities, and when left untreated can lead to additional pain in your unaffected foot or your back or hips.
Treatment to eliminate metatarsalgia symptoms can be as simple as resting, icing the affected area and wearing proper-fitting supportive shoes to significantly reduce swelling and ease pain.
If you think you have metatarsalgia and it’s not getting any easier, seek help from a podiatrist. Remember that the longer you have a problem the longer it may take to fix it. Podiatrists are experts in lower limbs and foot anatomy and we will be able to get to the bottom of the issue and help you have pain free feet.
We’d love to see you in clinic if you would like to discuss your foot health – just get in touch.