People suffering from metatarsalgia – which derives its name from the term "metatarsals," or long bones of the foot – feel intense pain in the ball of the foot.
The metatarsal bones equally share the weight of a person during walking and daily activities. When this delicate balance between bones is disrupted, the result can be mild to intense foot pain. The term metatarsalgia refers to the number of problems people can experience in this area.
The causes of metatarsalgia pain can be attributed to a number of factors, from bone abnormalities to systemic conditions such as diabetes.
The most common cause is an imbalance in the long bones of the foot. These bones absorb the weight during walking, and if one of the bones is abnormally long or fractured from stress, it will create dysfunction among all bones.
Other causes include:
- An enlarged metatarsal head.
- Arthritis or any degenerative disease of the joints.
- Systemic conditions such as diabetes, which can cause nerve-type pain in the foot.
- Calluses or skin lesions that cause the weight on the foot to be unevenly distributed.
- Aging, which tends to thin out or shift the fatty tissue of the foot pad.
- Sports that place tremendous pounding on the ball of the foot, like jogging.
- Ill-fitting shoes that put pressure on the bones of the feet.
- Shoes with small toe boxes that cramp your toes.
As explained above, the universal symptom of metatarsalgia is pain in the ball of the foot, and is most pronounced when walking or engaging in sports. Since the foot supports the body in all its activities, chronic pain in the ball of the foot impacts the ability to perform ordinary tasks.
Additional symptoms include:
- Discomfort when wearing shoes and socks.
- Pain during activities where impact is applied to the foot, such as running.
Treatment of metatarsalgia depends on the cause, but here are a few suggestions to help alleviate the discomfort associated with this condition:
- Use shoe insoles or inserts to help spread your weight more equally across the entire bottom of the foot. Shoes and insoles also provide stability to prevent the abnormal collapsing of the arch.
- Add metatarsal pads to your shoes to help spread the weight.
If more support and cushioning doesn't help alleviate pain, see a podiatrist for further treatment.
Information on foot, leg and lower body health conditions provided by The Podiatry Institute, dedicated to advancing the standard of care in podiatric medicine and its effects on muscoskeletal health.