Metatarsalgia is a broad term to describe pain in the ball of the foot. Often considered a symptom, a diagnosis or both, the condition can be complex
Symptoms of metatarsalgia may include:
- Sharp, aching or burning pain in the ball of the foot
- Pain in the area around your second, third or fourth toes — or, only near your big toe
- Pain that gets worse when you stand, walk or run and improves when you rest
- Sharp or shooting pain in your toes
- Numbness or tingling in your toes
- Pain that worsens when you flex your feet
- A feeling in your feet as if you’re walking with a pebble in your shoe
- Increased pain when you’re walking barefoot, especially on a hard surface
Metatarsalgia can affect anyone who spends significant time on their feet and frequently affects runners and other athletes who participate in high impact sports. Other contributing factors can include: an increase in activity or training, excess weight, length of time one must be on their feet in a day, and poorly fitting shoes.
The Podiatrist will assess your condition to determine the underlying cause of your metatarsalgia. Once the cause of condition is clear, a personalised treatment plan will be outlined for you.
Foot Orthotics: The right custom made orthotics are one of the one of the most important means of treating metatarsalgia, because they can both reduce pressure on the painful area on the ball of your foot, and correct any walking abnormalities that may have caused or exacerbated your condition.
Footwear: Footwear designed with a high, wide toe box (area around the toes) and a rocker sole are ideal for treating Metatarsalgia. The high, wide toe box allows the foot to spread out while the rocker sole reduces stress on the ball-of-the-foot. Wear shoes with a moderate heel height. We recommend a heel height of 1/2″ to 3/4″. A lower heel height tightens the Achilles tendon.
Anti-Inflammatory Agents: Cortisone injections or oral anti-inflammatory medication may relieve symptoms, but does not address source of the problem.
Exercise: The Podiatrist may suggest you take a break from any high impact exercise or sports you may be engaging in to give your feet a rest from the impact and resulting pain often caused by intense sports.
Stretching: Tight calf muscles lift the heel earlier than normal when walking. Hence you are standing and walking on your toes most of the time, stressing the metatarsals. A flexible tendon and calf muscle decreases strain on the injury, so stretching the calves will help the symptoms but will not fix the problem.
Surgery: In cases that do not respond to conservative measures, surgery may be recommended.
Left untreated, metatarsalgia might lead to pain in other parts of the same or opposite foot and pain elsewhere in the body, such as the lower back or hip, due to limping (altered gait) from foot pain.