Metatarsalgia denotes a common foot condition characterized by pain and inflammation of the joints and bones of the ball of the foot – the area just before the toes, also called the metatarsal region.
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, back or hips. Treatment to eliminate metatarsalgia symptoms can be as simple as resting, icing the affected area and wearing proper-fitting shoes to significantly reduce swelling and ease pain.
When conservative treatments aren’t effective and pain persists, visit our practice for a full exam and a proper diagnosis. In most cases, metatarsalgia can be treated non-surgically. An experienced podiatrist may prescribe specially-designed orthotics or shock-absorbing insoles and arch supports to prevent and minimize future problems with metatarsalgia.