Learn more about this common foot condition
Do you have pain in the ball of your feet?
Metatarsalgia is a medical condition characterised by inflammation and pain in the balls of the feet. It occurs due to problems with the metatarsal bones, which are located in the midsection of your foot, connecting your toes to your ankle. These bones play a vital role in the structure and mobility of your foot.
Given that the balls of your feet bear weight while you stand, walk, or run, experiencing pain in this area is quite common. The swelling and discomfort caused by metatarsalgia can interfere with your daily activities, and although not usually serious, proper diagnosis and treatment for those affected by metatarsalgia may provide relief and improve quality of life.
causes of metatarsalgia
- Foot anatomy: Certain foot shapes, such as high arches can put more pressure on the metatarsals. Similarly, having a second toe longer than your big toe can shift more weight onto the second metatarsal head. Other contributing factors include prominent metatarsal heads, hypermobile first foot bone, tight toe extensors and weak toe flexors.
- Intense training or sport activities: A common cause of metatarsalgia are sport activities that put constant pressure on the metatarsal bones at the front of your foot. These activities can include running (especially long distance), jumping or playing tennis. The front of your foot absorbs significant force when you run, and regular running can lead to overuse. This overuse can produce constant stress on your foot which irritates the tendons, ligaments, cartilage and causes inflammation.
- Medical conditions: Conditions such as arthritis, bursitis, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout and Morton’s neuroma can lead to metatarsalgia.
- Tight calf muscles
- Weight: Most of your body weight is transferred to your forefoot when you move, and being overweight or obese puts more weight and consequently more pressure on your feet and metatarsal area.
- Footwear: Wearing high-heeled shoes shifts extra weight towards the front of your foot, while tight shoes can compress and squeeze your foot. These factors force the ball of your foot into a confined space, resulting in increased pressure on this area. Shoes that are too loose encourage your foot slide back and forth, while shoes with a narrow toe box or inadequate padding and arch support increase pressure on the ball of your foot.
- Foot Injuries: Experiencing trauma, such as fractures and dislocations in the metatarsals or toe bones, or torn ligaments in your feet, can cause significant pain and alter your weight-bearing patterns.
pain in ball of foot
Treatment of metatarsalgia
At The Foot Hub, our podiatrists will conduct a thorough examination and use diagnostic imaging to help identify the cause of your metatarsalgia. After initial assessment and an accurate diagnosis has been made, treatment for metatarsalgia can include the following:
- Footwear education and recommendations
- Custom made orthotics to offload your metatarsal heads
- Debridement of any calluses on the ball of your feet to reduce symptoms
- Recommendations for anti-inflammatory options, such as cortisone injection
* Can be claimed on private health insurance with podiatry cover
frequently asked questions
American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society. Metatarsalgia (forefoot pain). (https://www.footcaremd.org/conditions-treatments/toes/forefoot-pain-metatarsalgia)
Hearne, D. (2021). Metatarsalgia foot pain.
Pain in the ball of the foot. (2019).
Scranton PE Jr. Metatarsalgia: diagnosis and treatment. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 1980 Jul;62(5):723-32.