Thumbnail image of: Metatarsalgia: Illustration


What is metatarsalgia?

Metatarsalgia is pain in the ball of your foot near your toes.

What is the cause?

Causes may include:

  • Being overweight, which puts more pressure on your feet
  • Wearing shoes that are too narrow or have high heels
  • Wearing shoes that are worn out or do not have proper cushioning
  • Arthritis or other joint problems
  • Injuries such as stress fractures, which may be caused by running a lot of miles
  • Differently shaped bones in your foot that you are born with

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms may include:

  • Pain when you stand, walk, run, or jump
  • Tenderness to touch on the ball of your foot
  • Pain, tingling, or numbness in your toes

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and medical history and examine you. You will have X-rays.

How is it treated?

Most often, treating the cause will help treat the foot pain. For example, loosing weight or changing the type of shoes you wear. Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your healthcare provider. In addition:

  • Put an ice pack, gel pack, or package of frozen vegetables wrapped in a cloth on your knee every 3 to 4 hours for up to 20 minutes at a time.
  • Keep your foot up on a pillow when you sit or lie down.
  • Take an anti-inflammatory medicine, such as ibuprofen, as directed by your provider. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) may cause stomach bleeding and other problems. These risks increase with age. Read the label and take as directed. Unless recommended by your healthcare provider, do not take for more than 10 days.
  • Use a metatarsal pad underneath the painful part of your foot.
  • Your healthcare provider may recommend shoe inserts, called orthotics. You can buy orthotics at a drug store or shoe store, or they can be custom-made.
  • Follow your provider’s instructions for doing exercise to help you recover. While you are recovering from your injury, you will need to change your sport or activity to one that does not make your condition worse. For example, you may need to swim or bicycle instead of run or walk.

Ask your provider:

  • How long it will take to recover
  • If there are activities you should avoid and when you can return to your normal activities
  • How to take care of yourself at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them

Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.

How can I prevent metatarsalgia?

  • Wear shoes that fit well and provide cushioning and support.
  • Lose weight if you are overweight.
  • Be careful about how much you exercise on any one day. Listen to your body. If you have soreness or pain, take a few days off or try a different exercise that does not stress your foot.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-09-18
Last reviewed: 2014-12-08
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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