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Metatarsalgia

What is Metatarsalgia?

Metatarsalgia is a common overuse injury. It is a condition in which the ball of your foot becomes painful and inflamed. It is often thought of as a symptom of other conditions, rather than as a specific disease.

Causes

Metatarsalgia might develop if you participate in activities that involve running and jumping. There are other causes as well, including foot deformities and shoes that are too tight or too loose.

Signs & Symptoms

Symptoms of metatarsalgia can include:

  • Sharp, aching or burning pain in the ball of your foot — the part of the sole just behind your toes

  • Pain that worsens when you stand, run, flex your feet or walk — especially barefoot on a hard surface — and improves when you rest

  • Sharp or shooting pain, numbness, or tingling in your toes

  • A feeling of having a pebble in your shoe

Treatment

Treatments for metatarsalgia include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Rest. Protect your foot from further injury by not stressing it. Elevate your foot after standing or walking. You might need to avoid your favorite sport for a while, but you can stay fit with low-impact exercises, such as swimming or cycling.

  • Ice the affected area. Apply ice packs to the affected area for about 20 minutes at a time several times a day. To protect your skin, wrap the ice packs in a thin towel.

  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever. Try ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), naproxen sodium (Aleve) or aspirin to reduce pain and inflammation.

  • Wear proper shoes. Avoid too-tight or too-loose shoes and limit your wearing of high heels. Wear shoes appropriate to the sports you play.

  • Use metatarsal pads. These off-the-shelf pads are placed in your shoes just ahead of the metatarsal bone to help deflect stress from the painful area.

  • Consider arch supports. If insoles don't help, your doctor might recommend arch supports to minimize stress on the metatarsal bones and improve foot function. You can buy arch supports over-the-counter, or they can be custom fitted.