Metatarsalgia: What Is It and What Does Metatarsalgia Mean?

A typical overuse injury is metatarsalgia. The phrase refers to discomfort, metatarsalgia pain and swelling in the ball of your foot. Instead of being considered a specific sickness, it's frequently viewed as a symptom of other conditions.

Symptoms of metatarsalgia

Metatarsalgia tends to develop gradually over time.

It may be felt in a small area of the foot, or across the whole width of it. One or both feet may be affected.

The pain of metatarsalgia is sometimes described as:

  • Sharp, aching, or burning pain in the ball of your foot, which is the area of the sole right behind your toes, is one of the symptoms of metatarsalgia. Especially when walking barefoot on a hard surface, the pain gets worse when you stand, run, bend your feet, or walk. It gets better when you rest.
  • The most common symptom of metatarsalgia is a sharp, burning or aching pain in the ball of your foot.
  • Metatarsalgia may begin with pain in the ball of your foot, but it can come with numbness or tingling in your toes.

Metatarsalgia tends to be worse when you're standing, walking or running.

Why does metatarsalgia occur and what are metatarsalgia causes?

metatarsalgia easyfeet

Participating in sports that create pressure on the metatarsal bones in the front of your foot is the most common cause of metatarsalgia. Overuse of the region is frequently a result of these activities. For instance, running requires applying consistent force on the ball of the foot. Your foot may experience abnormal stress, which could worsen irritation of the metatarsal area. The tendons, ligaments, and cartilage around the bone may also become irritated.

Other causes include:

  1. Uncomfortable shoes: Your shoes can be overly tight, compressing your foot. Your foot may also be sliding back and forth because your shoes are too loose.
  2. You may put greater weight on the ball of your foot if you wear high heels or shoes without sufficient padding and arch support.
  3. Foot abnormalities can cause metatarsalgia, including high arches, a second toe that is longer than your big toe, calluses on the bottom of your foot, bunions, and hammer toe.
  4. Weight gain: Being overweight or obese puts extra strain on the metatarsal region of your feet.
  5. The stress on the ball of your foot can be exacerbated by a number of conditions, including bursitis, arthritis, gout, Morton's neuroma, and minor stress fractures in your toes and metatarsal bones.

Now you know what causes metatarsalgia.

The Diagnosis of Metatarsalgia

Metatarsalgia symptoms might resemble those of numerous foot injuries, illnesses, and pains. It's time to visit your doctor if your pain persists despite resting your feet and/or improving your footwear. Your doctor might:

  • Examine your foot physically.
  • Ask you to take a walk (to observe your gait).
  • Ask you questions on your daily activities and the onset of the pain.
  • Take X-rays to rule out stress fractures,.
  • Conduct an ultrasound to detect neuromas, bursitis, and other soft tissue issues.
  • Conduct an MRI to look for injuries or evidence of arthritis.
  • Collect blood to check for uric acid.

To pinpoint the causes of metatarsalgia or rule out other disorders, numerous tests are conducted or carried out, enabling your doctor to precisely prescribe therapies.

Your primary care doctor or general practitioner can suggest that you see an orthopedic surgeon or a foot specialist (podiatrist) in order to try and identify your ailment.

How to treat metatarsalgia

Typically, metatarsalgia does not require surgery to be addressed. For treatment for metatarsalgia and to relieve the pressure on the troublesome area of your foot, your doctor can advise using a metatarsal pad, a surgical shoe, or a shoe insert. You might be advised to wear trainers or shoes with rocker soles. Other beneficial hints are:

  • selecting footwear with sturdy soles, a large toe box, and a small heel;
  • avoiding barefoot travel;
  • calluses can be removed from your feet by soaking them and applying pumice stone.

Pressure can be reduced by removing these calluses. Before doing this, diabetics should first speak with their doctor.

How to prevent metatarsalgia

metatarsalgia easyfeet

Wearing the proper footwear can frequently prevent metatarsalgia. Look for a shoe with a broad toe-box and a dome-shaped metatarsal pad, which will protect your metatarsals from hammering, if you have a flat or neutral foot. A shock-absorbing insole that offers a base for the foot and additional cushioning that relieves pressure on the bones may be helpful for runners with high arches. For assistance dressing your foot, go to a store that specializes in running.

It also doesn't hurt to strengthen your own network of support. The metatarsals are shielded from impact by the bottom of the foot being strengthened so that it doesn't flatten out too much. Overpronation, one of the most frequent causes of metatarsalgia, can be reduced by strengthening the "plantar sling" muscles, which run on either side of the calf.

Give your feet a rest if you experience metatarsalgia. Run on softer terrain, cut back on the distance you run, or temporarily switch to a low-impact activity. Within the first 24 hours, apply ice to acute symptoms and use anti-inflammatories as necessary. If your symptoms don't go away in 10 days, visit your doctor or a podiatrist. You might require orthotics, a new insert or metatarsal pad, or to have a callus shaved.

Metatarsalgia treatment exercises

Plantar Sling Strengthener:

Fix a desk leg to an exercise band that is looped. Put the right arch of your foot inside the loop. Ten times, pull the band away from your center while against resistance. Pull toward your center while switching your right foot for your left. Repeat these exercises for metatarsalgia: left foot pulls out, right foot draws in, as you turn around and face the other way. 30 reps per side are the next step.

Arch strengtheners:

  1. With your toes, grasp a marble, hold it for five counts, then let go. Repeat from the big toe down to the small toe, beginning with the big toe. Three times, please.
  2. Scrunch a washcloth with your toes after placing it on a flat surface. Hold for a count of five before releasing. Ten to fifteen times.

Ankle Extension

  1. Sit in a chair, and cross the injured foot over your knee.
  2. Hold the ankle with your hand on the same side, and your toes in the opposite hand.
  3. Pull your toes towards you until it’s uncomfortable (but not painful).
  4. Hold for 5-10 seconds.  

Ankle Flex

  1. Again, sit in a chair with the injured foot over your knee.
  2. This time, hold your ankle with the hand of the opposite side, and your toes with the hand of the same side.
  3. Pull your toes towards you until it’s uncomfortable.
  4. Hold for 5-10 seconds.

Toe towel-scrunches

  1. Stand barefooted, with one foot in front standing on a towel.
  2. Maintain a slight bend in the leg that is touching the towel.
  3. Use your toes to scrunch up the towel, making sure that the rest of the foot does not leave the ground.
  4. Perform 3 sets of 15 scrunches per foot.

Metatarsalgia massage

  1. Morton's neuroma and metatarsalgia (pain in the ball of the foot) can both be helped by massage treatments.
  2. Roll a golf or tennis ball under your foot to massage it, being careful not to touch directly on the sore spot. This aids in calming down the foot's strained toe-supporting muscles.

Insoles for Metatarsalgia for Ball of Foot Pain

A variety of orthotics for metatarsalgia are available to aid with foot pain in the balls of your feet.

The best insoles for metatarsalgia are made to last, offer the maximum amount of comfort and support, and keep your feet happy and healthy.

Metatarsalgia inserts

Users can support the ball of their feet properly and prevent unneeded and potentially harmful wear and strain on the metatarsal bones by wearing the best shoe inserts for metatarsalgia.

These metatarsalgia orthotics fit into any shoe with ease, allowing the user to carry on with their daily activities as usual.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Metatarsalgia

You might wish to ask your doctor the following questions concerning metatarsalgia:

How long before I can resume my regular activities?

What other non-surgical metatarsalgia physical therapy options are available?

What types of over-the-counter orthotics do you suggest for me?

What dietary adjustments are necessary?

What alterations in my way of life should I make to my symptoms?

What weight is suitable for my height?

How long does metatarsalgia last?

How to cure metatarsalgia?

Always seek the advice of a podiatrist. Depending on your condition, your podiatrist may recommend a variety of therapies. there are a few podiatric procedures that can effectively cure metatarsalgia.

The podiatrist may recommend surgical intervention or therapy footwear for the patient to wear in some persistent conditions.