Metatarsalgia (Ball of Foot Pain)

Metatarsalgia is sharp, dull, or aching pain that originates on the tips of your metatarsal bones. These include the bones on the ball of your foot. The condition is related to a sports injury, poorly-fitting shoes, obesity, pregnancy, or other lifestyle activities that put excess pressure on the bones.

What You Need To Know About Metatarsalgia

What is Metatarsalgia?

Your metatarsals are the five longest bones in your foot that stretch from the small-ankle and foot-base bones forward to the five phalanges, which are known as the "toe bones." These bones comprise the foot's instep, and make it possible for you to walk, stand, and run. Metatarsalgia is pain in one or more of these long metatarsal bones from too much pressure on the bone and surrounding tissues.

Our Foot and Ankle Specialists have helped many Georgians get moving again. If you are experiencing foot pain, you owe it to yourself to book an appointment at Resurgens Orthopaedics now.

What Causes Metatarsalgia?

There is no single cause of metatarsalgia. Metatarsalgia usually occurs from overuse of the metatarsal bones due to heavy activity such as running, jumping, or walking. Repetitive motion can cause the bones in the foot to become injured and sore. Some people may even have difficulty exercising or playing sports as a result of their metatarsalgia.

Other causes of metatarsalgia include:

  • Wearing new pairs of shoes, or shoes that are uncomfortable or have high-heels

  • Excessive weight from pregnancy or obesity

  • Rheumatoid arthritis

  • Morton's neuroma

  • Hammer toe

  • Some people's feet are shaped so that they tend to develop metatarsalgia more than others

Metatarsalgia Symptoms

Metatarsalgia is painful directly over the long bones of the foot. They can be painful to touch, and when putting pressure on the feet while walking or running. Some of the most common symptoms of metatarsalgia include:

  • Pain that increases with physical activities like running and walking

  • Sharp, burning ache in the ball of your foot

  • Experiencing irritation similar to having a rock stuck in your foot

How Metatarsalgia is Diagnosed?

To diagnose metatarsalgia, your doctor will examine your foot and ask you some questions about the history of your foot pain. During your exam, you may experience minor irritation in the affected part of your foot.

Metatarsalgia is not caused by a break in the bones, so it can't show up on an x-ray. However, since the symptoms of metatarsalgia are similar to other foot conditions, your doctor may use diagnostic imaging to pinpoint the source of your pain and narrow down causes.

Metatarsalgia Treatment

Depending on your condition and lifestyle needs, your doctor may recommend restricting activities that cause metatarsal pain. These can include running, brisk walking, dancing, or any activity that strains and irritates your foot bones. It may be best to pivot to sports that do not rely on bearing weight on your foot while your tissues heal. These activities include low-impact exercises like swimming, biking, or rowing.

Resurgens offers non-surgical and surgical treatment options for metatarsalgia:

Non-surgical Treatment

Your doctor may suggest that you wear more cushioned shoes, or try a special padding under the tender area of your foot to give extra cushioning to the bones. Orthotic devices (custom shoe supports for your arches) may also help adjust the position of your foot in shoes to change the distribution of pressure on your bones.

To help prevent the pain associated with metatarsalgia, your doctor may recommend non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (such as ibuprofen).

Surgical Treatment

For people who need extra attention, surgical intervention may help eliminate pain. Many surgical procedures at Resurgens are outpatient and done with minimally-invasive techniques. Minimally-invasive techniques done with an arthroscope can be used to reshape the bones or relieve irritated nerves.

Learn more about the Foot and Ankle Center at Resurgens Orthopaedics. Schedule an appointment to meet with our experts today!

Virtual After-Hours Access

Resurgens Orthopaedics has partnered with the HURT! app to offer FREE virtual after-hours access to orthopedic specialists right when you need it.

Receive immediate guidance on your injury!