Ball of Foot Pain: Metatarsalgia

The 26 Review

  • What is Painful Metatarsalgia? A condition in which the ball of your foot becomes painful and inflamed.
  • Causes Intense training or activity, pre-existing foot deformities, ill-fitting shoes, stress fractures, underlying health conditions
  • Symptoms Sharp, aching, or burning pain in the ball of the foot. Sharp or shooting pain, numbness or tingling in the toes.
  • Diagnosis Physical examination, X-rays, MRI
  • Treatment Properly fitted shoes, shock-absorbing gel pads, arch supports, rest, ice, OTC medication, surgery

Let’s take a closer look…

Painful Metatarsalgia is an ailment that affects the ball of your foot in which said area can become inflamed, painful and/or have burning effects. This condition targets the metatarsal bones connecting the toes and ankle bones. The metatarsals are a common source of pain due to the amount of weight they carry in support of standing, walking, or running actions.

Painful Metatarsalgia can develop in those who participate in activities that involve jumping and/or running. However, this ailment is not limited to those who are actively moving daily. Other causes may include pre-existing foot deformities, Diabetes, and wearing shoes that are either too tight or too loose.

Fortunately, many preventative measures and at-home treatments exist to avoid or treat this ailment. Continue reading more to learn about Painful Metatarsalgia, how to prevent it, and how to treat it.


Pain in the ball of the foot can be caused by many different things, most of which can be avoided or altered to put the feet less at risk. As mentioned before, excessive activity and training can cause Painful Metatarsalgia, primarily due to the front of the foot absorbing excessive amounts of force when a person is active.

Anyone who participates in high-intensity workouts can be at risk; however, properly fitted shoes can prevent such ailments. Those who have high arches can also be at risk. High arches can put additional pressure on the metatarsals. Pre-existing foot deformities go hand-in-hand with ill-fitting footwear, allowing malformed feet to be harmed if not properly taken care of. In women, high heels transfer the extra weight to the front of your foot, making this demographic vulnerable to Metatarsalgia.

Likewise, shoes with a narrow toe box or tennis shoes that lack support and padding can also contribute to the ailment. Metatarsalgia is typically most common in people of older age, as well as people battling diabetes, although this problem can occur in everyone. Nerve damage in the foot due to diabetes may present symptoms.

Metatarsalgia often begins when the five Metatarsals extend from the base of each toe to the midfoot. If you or someone you know is experiencing burning, aching, or shooting pain in the ball of the foot that does not improve after modifying activities or changing shoes, consider contacting a Podiatrist for treatment.


When differentiating between the typical ball of foot pain and Painful Metatarsalgia, the one key factor to consider is time. Rest and elevation can easily remedy stress in the ball of the foot. However, with Painful Metatarsalgia, those treatments may not always be enough.

Metatarsalgia pain usually worsens gradually over time. This ailment may improve while resting the foot but worse when standing, walking, or exercising. It is beneficial to pay attention to whether the pain worsens while putting weight on the feet, through standing or activity, as well as when walking barefoot.

If the pain does worsen it may feel like walking with a marble or pebble in your shoe. It can also cause sharp, burning, and/or shooting pain in the ball of the foot in conjunction with numbness or tingling of the toes. People with Diabetes may experience the same previously mentioned symptoms in addition to cuts, redness, swelling, sores, or blisters. Since Metatarsalgia gradually worsens with time, keep an eye out for any of these symptoms that do not dissipate over time.


Metatarsalgia can affect people of all ages and demographics, however, as previously stated, people of older age and/or people with Diabetes are largely more at risk. If the ball of foot pain worsens over time, consider speaking with a Podiatrist.

A Clinical physician’s experience and knowledge can aid in diagnosing and treating Metatarsalgia. Physical examination and educated questions alone can enable the physician to make an accurate diagnosis. If physical examination alone is not enough, blood tests can be conducted. These tests help to differentiate between underlying health conditions and allow for a better diagnosis of the causes of Painful Metatarsalgia.

X-rays function solely to check for fractures or other issues with the metatarsal bones and surrounding joints. In severe cases, MRIs can be utilized for detailed images of the affected area to pinpoint accurately what may be causing such pain. A Podiatrist’s clinical experience is the best means of diagnosing and properly treating Painful Metatarsalgia.

Treatment For Painful Metatarsalgia

Treatment for Painful Metatarsalgia depends on the severity and cause of the pain inflicted on the ball of the foot. Typically, conservative measures like rest, elevation, and compression will do fine to relieve the pain. Other at-home remedies can include icing the foot a few times a day, taking over-the-counter pain relievers, and, in some instances, weight loss. To prevent recurring pain, consider replacing your shoes with well-fitting and good supporting shoes.

Custom Molded Orthotics can aid in providing proper arch support and reducing pain levels. Taking a break from high-intensity activities should also help. Replacing high-intensity workouts with low-intensity workouts like swimming or cycling allows for better foot protection and allows Metatarsalgia sufferers to continue to stay active.

Clinical physicians, in some cases, may recommend working with a Physical Therapist to provide exercises in order to strengthen the muscles around where Painful Metatarsalgia occurs. These therapists can also help correct a person’s gait to prevent pain from metatarsalgia from traveling to the legs, hips, and lower back. In severe cases where pain persists, a Podiatrist can perform surgery to realign the Metatarsal bones.

Display your feet with confidence.

Elevating foot and ankle health for every step of your journey.