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What is Metatarsalgia?

by | August 26, 2022

 Metatarsalgia is a condition that affects the metatarsal bones in the foot. These bones are located in the front of the foot and support the toes. This foot condition can cause pain, inflammation, and stiffness in the ball of the foot. Based on recent reports, the metatarsalgia incidence rate is roughly 5% to 36%. So let’s talk about how to recognize the symptoms of metatarsalgia. Including what’s causing the problem. (1)

How Do You Know If You Have Metatarsalgia?

Anyone can have this condition. But athletes who do high-impact sports or spend a lot of time on their forefoot might be more prone to developing this forefoot disorder. Individuals with high arches can be more susceptible    

To know if you have this condition, it’s important to learn the symptoms of metatarsalgia. These can include:

  • Shooting or sharp pains in the toes
  • Tingling or numbness 
  • Burning or sharp aches in the ball of the foot
  • Feeling as though there is a pebble in the shoe when there is none
  • The aches get worse the more you walk, run, or stand

You might be wondering if metatarsalgia is the same as plantar fasciitis. No. These are completely different conditions. Plantar fasciitis is pain that occurs on weight-bearing in the medial plantar section of the heel. It affects the thick ligament that connects the heel to the front of the foot. (2)

Metatarsalgia causes pain on the plantar surface of the forefoot. And that pain can radiate to the toes. However, not all foot pains need medical attention. Sometimes the pains emerge after exhausting the feet from strenuous activities or standing too long. Some people get major calluses in the middle of the ball of their foot.

But, if the pain persists for more than a couple of days, then you should talk to a specialist. They can suggest you modify your physical activities and change your shoes. Like, wear proper running shoes that stabilize the feet and provide better shock absorption and cushioning. 

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Why Do I Keep Getting Metatarsalgia?

It’s important to take the load off the affected area of the foot. If you are using very restrictive shoes or high heels for a long time, then the ball of the foot lacks space for adequate comfort. This adds pressure to the muscles. Being obese or overweight also makes you vulnerable.

Those who wear poorly fitted footwear and do regular high-impact sports are putting a lot more pressure on their feet. Landing on your forefoot after a jump can be associated with metatarsalgia. This would be why it would be important for your dancer to practice on a sprung floor. Also, repeatedly getting this condition would be a reason for a runner to consider changing their foot strike pattern as forefoot and mid-foot striking increase the load on the metatarsals.

The condition can be caused by wearing shoes that are too tight or too narrow, or by walking or running on hard surfaces. Symptoms of metatarsalgia can be relieved by wearing supportive shoes, using arch supports, and taking over-the-counter pain relievers. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to correct the condition. The condition can be caused by wearing shoes that are too tight or too narrow, or by walking or running on hard surfaces. Symptoms of metatarsalgia can be relieved by wearing supportive shoes, using arch supports, and taking over-the-counter pain relievers. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to correct the condition. 

So if you get metatarsalgia and you do not change habits, activities, or seek treatments, it would be a good bet that right after the pain subsides, you will get metatarsalgia again. 

Any unusual bone structures or foot conditions like hammer toes, and bursitis, can have a profound impact on the state of your feet. That’s why it is important to give the feet the break they deserve. And start treating the problem. (3)

Poor foot biomechanics can also play a role. Overuse injuries to the metatarsal area can occur and can be related to overpronation as can poor ankle dorsiflexion. 

Conservative Treatment for Metatarsalgia

Conservative treatment for metatarsalgia is typically the first line of defense against the condition. Surgery is rarely necessary for metatarsalgia, but it may be recommended in cases of severe pain or when other treatments have failed.

1. Rest

Rest is one of the most important treatments for metatarsalgia. When you have this condition, your feet need sufficient time to heal. That means taking a break from the activities that caused your pain in the first place. This may mean resting regarding work, sports, or any other activity that aggravates your feet. Depending on your symptoms, you may also need to avoid standing or walking for long periods. Some people may need to go non-weight bearing (i.e., use crutches) for several weeks. Getting a shoe with a rocker bottom. 

2. Corrective Exercises

Due to poor foot biomechanics, corrective exercises can be used as a conservative treatment.

metatarsalgia treatment Toledo, OH

3. Orthoses

Orthoses are devices that are used to support and stabilize the foot. They are often prescribed to treat metatarsalgia. 

Orthoses can be custom-made or off-the-shelf and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They may be made from plastic, metal, or carbon fiber and can be inserted into the shoe or worn on the outside of the foot. These devices are effective in relieving pain and improving function in people with metatarsalgia. Custom foot orthotics are the best version but also the most expensive. 

4. Professional Help

Cold laser therapy and chiropractic manipulation also have their role in reducing pain and improving biomechanics. 

Are Metatarsal Pads Effective?

Metatarsal pads are inserts that can be placed in a shoe to help relieve pressure on the metatarsals. There are a variety of different types of metatarsal pads available, and it is important to find the right type for your needs. 

There is some debate over whether metatarsal pads are effective in reducing pain and discomfort in the ball of the foot. A 2017 study (1) by K Manniko and J Sahlaman found that 47% of patients who wore metatarsal pads reported a reduction in pain and inflammation. The authors recommend metatarsal padding as an inexpensive and effective conservative measure to treat metatarsalgia. However, other studies have shown that metatarsal pads may not be effective for everyone and can even cause more discomfort for some people.

There are also some precautions you should take when using metatarsal pads, such as not using them if you have high arches or if you are susceptible to blisters. If you are considering using metatarsal pads, it is important to talk to your doctor first to see if they are the right solution for you. 

How To Avoid Metatarsalgia

Metatarsalgia is a foot condition that can cause pain in the ball of your foot. This condition is often the result of wearing shoes that are too tight or too narrow in the toe box. Besides this, many things can contribute to this foot condition. Here are some tips for avoiding metatarsalgia:

  • Wearing Proper Shoes – Make sure you are wearing shoes that fit well and have appropriate cushioning for your feet. Avoid shoes with high heels or narrow toes.
  • Exercising – Regular exercise can help keep your feet strong and flexible, which can help reduce your risk of developing metatarsalgia. And if your feet are strong, it is ok to be barefoot.
  • Taking Breaks – When you are standing or walking for long periods, take breaks to move around and stretch your feet.
  • Icing – Apply ice packs to the ball of your foot after exercise or when you experience pain or inflammation.

FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions

Preparing for an Appointment

If the pain is getting in the way of your daily routines, you can contact your trusted healthcare professional. Call Dr. Bryan D. Royer, a sports medicine chiropractor in Sylvania, OH. You could also call your primary care physician, podiatrist (foot specialist), or orthopedist (bone specialist). Before you talk to your doctor, write down all the symptoms you might be feeling and when they started. Don’t forget to talk about your personal medical history. Your doctor can suggest a couple of physical activities that can ease the discomfort. Including the best types of shoes to wear to curb the pain. (4)

Should I take over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication

NSAIDs are over-the-counter pain medications and a class of drugs that are used to treat pain and inflammation. They work by blocking the production of prostaglandins, which are chemicals that contribute to inflammation. 

NSAIDs are often prescribed to treat conditions such as arthritis, menstrual cramps, and headaches. They can also be used to treat metatarsalgia, a condition that causes pain in the ball of the foot. Ibuprofen is a type of NSAID that is commonly prescribed to treat metatarsalgia. It works by blocking the production of prostaglandins, which reduces inflammation and pain. It might be helpful short-term but notes that prolonged use of NSAIDs affects multiple systems to cause ulcers, arthritis, and even liver failure.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6784640/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6435866/
  3. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/metatarsalgia/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20354795
  4. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15890-metatarsalgia
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28737072/

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