Metatarsalgia is a term used to describe a group of forefoot conditions that cause pain, burning or discomfort under the ball of the foot or in the toes. It is caused when the soft tissues around the head of the metatarsal bones become inflamed. Each foot has five metatarsal bones that run from the arch of your foot to your toe joints. Inflammation usually results from excessive pressure over the area for a long period of time. The pressure in the area can be increased due to arthritic changes, fat pad deterioration, high arches, weight gain or foot deformities. Sometimes a single incident can lead to metatarsalgia such as acute foot trauma or high impact sports.
The main symptom of metatarsalgia is pain at the ball of your foot when standing or walking. It is most often noticeable during the push-off phase and improves with rest. It is sometimes accompanied by sharp or shooting pain in your toes or even numbness and tingling in your toes.
The following list identifies several options for treatment and prevention of metatarsalgia:
- Rest - Resting the injured area gives the tissue time to heal. Without a reduction of activity, the stress to the painful area will continue and healing is difficult.
- Proper fitting shoes - If your pain is caused by the type footwear you are wearing, then your style of footwear needs to be changes. Selecting shoes with wide and deep toe boxes that fit the shape of your foot. High-heeled dress shoes and shoes with narrow or pointed toe boxes can further aggravate the pain of metatarsalgia.
- Custom made foot orthotics - Custom made orthotics can help to alleviate the pain of metatarsalgia or prevent further injury by reducing the pressure applied to the forefoot.
*Source: Pedorthic Association of Canada, Metatarsalgia brochure, 2009