Metatarsalgia (Ball-of-foot pain)
Metatarsalgia is a general term used to
denote a painful foot condition in the metatarsal region of the foot (the
area just before the toes, more commonly referred to as the
ball-of-the-foot). This is a common foot disorder that can affect the
bones and joints at the ball-of-the-foot. Metatarsalgia
(ball-of-foot-pain) is often located under the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th
metatarsal heads, or more isolated at the first metatarsal head (near the
With this common foot condition, one or
more of the metatarsal heads become painful and/or inflamed, usually due
to excessive pressure over a long period of time. It is common to
experience acute, recurrent, or chronic pain with metatarsalgia.
Ball-of-foot pain is often caused from improper fitting footwear, most
frequently by women’s dress shoes and other restrictive footwear. Footwear
with a narrow toe box (toe area) forces the ball-of-foot area to be forced
into a minimal amount of space. This can inhibit the walking process and
lead to extreme discomfort in the forefoot.
Other factors can cause excessive pressure
in the ball-of-foot area that can result in metatarsalgia. These include
shoes with heels that are too high or participating in high impact
activities without proper footwear and/or orthotics. Also as we get older,
the fat pad in our foot tends to thin out, making us much more susceptible
to pain in the ball-of-the-foot.
Treatment and Prevention
The first step in treating metatarsalgia is
to determine the cause of the pain. If improper fitting footwear is the
cause of the pain, the footwear must be changed. Footwear designed with a
high, wide toe box (toe area) and a rocker sole is ideal for treating
metatarsalgia. The high, wide toe box allows the foot to spread out while
the rocker sole reduces stress on the ball-of-the-foot.
Unloading pressure to the ball-of-the-foot
can be accomplished with a variety of footcare products. Orthotics
designed to relieve ball-of-foot pain usually feature a metatarsal pad.
The orthotic is constructed with the pad placed behind the
ball-of-the-foot to relieve pressure and redistribute weight from the
painful area to more tolerant areas. Other products often recommended
include gel metatarsal cushions and metatarsal bandages. When these
products are used with proper footwear, you should experience significant
If problem persists, consult your foot