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Metatarsalgia is an ailment where the ball of the foot becomes injured, causing pain and inflammation. Athletes who participate in sports involving jumping or running frequently experience this condition. Metatarsalgia arises when there is heavy or unusual pressure on the ball of the foot, creating pain and inflammation. The pain generally occurs over time rather than immediately and can last several months with increasing severity.


When there is an unusual weight distribution or abnormal movement, the foot is more vulnerable to injury.
Even though metatarsalgia generally is not serious, it can still slow you down. Fortunately, there are at-home treatments, such as ice and rest, which will often relieve symptoms. It is essential to wear suitable footwear with shock-absorbing insoles or arch supports. These simple devices may prevent or minimize future problems with metatarsalgia.


Symptoms may include inflammation and irritation of the ball of the foot and pain at the tip of one or more of the metatarsal bones.

  • Sharp, aching, or burning pain in the ball of the foot.
  • Pain that worsens when standing, running, flexing the feet, or walking.
  • Sharp or shooting pain, numbness, or tingling in the toes.
  • A sensation of a small rock in your shoe.

Some medical conditions may contribute to metatarsalgia can include:

  • Weak toe muscles
  • Tight toe muscles
  • Tight Achilles tendon
  • Hypermobile first foot bone (when joints become unstable and move beyond the normal range)
  • Hammertoe deformity
  • High arch
  • A smaller first metatarsal bone or a longer second metatarsal bone
  • Bunions are swollen, painful bumps at the base of your big toes.

Causes and Risk Factors

Occasionally, a single factor can cause metatarsalgia, but more often, several factors contribute, including:

  • Extreme training or sports activity. For example, distance runners are at greater risk of developing metatarsalgia, mainly because the front of the foot absorbs significant force when running. Nevertheless, anyone who takes part in a high-impact sport is at risk, especially if their shoes fit poorly or are worn.
  • Specific foot shapes. A high arch can create extra stress on the metatarsals. If the second toe is taller than the big toe, this causes more weight to be shifted to the second metatarsal head.
  • Being overweight. Since most of the bodyweight shifts to the forefoot when moving, extra pounds create more pressure on the metatarsals. Losing weight may reduce or eliminate symptoms.
  • Foot deformities. Wearing shoes that are too small or high heels shoes can cause your foot to become misshapen. Hammertoe and Bunions can cause metatarsalgia.
  • Badly fitting shoes. High heels produce extra weight to the front of the foot and are a common cause of metatarsalgia in many women. Shoes with a pointy toe box or athletic shoes that don’t have enough support and padding can also contribute to the issue.
  • Stress fractures. Tiny breaks in the metatarsals or toe bones can be painful and change how one puts weight on the feet.
  • Morton’s neuroma is a noncancerous growth of fibrous tissue surrounding a nerve and usually appears between the third and fourth metatarsal heads. It produces symptoms that are similar to metatarsalgia and can also add to metatarsal stress.
  • Pain is frequently increased when walking or running. Athletes who experience inflammatory conditions such as bursitis often also have forefoot pain.


An Orthopaedic Associates of St. Augustine physician will review your symptoms and examine your foot.

There are a few tests that can help to determine the location of the inflammation and damage. These tests can also identify conditions that could be causing metatarsalgia, such as Morton neuroma or bursitis.

Metatarsalgia Treatment

In most cases, metatarsalgia can be successfully treated with rehabilitation and does not require any surgical intervention. Your physician will help determine which course of treatment and rehabilitation practices are best for you.

Nonsurgical Treatment

Several options can be used to help with the healing process.

  • Icing the foot and applying a pressure bandage.
  • Staying off the affected foot for a few days.
  • Wearing supportive shoes.
  • Rehabilitation can assist in getting back on your feet quicker by restoring the range of motion.
  • Swimming can be an excellent alternative to normal weight-bearing sports.

It is important not to disrupt the healing process by following your physician’s orders, stretching correctly, and not returning to physical activity until you are given the ok to do so.

Surgical Treatment

In a few cases, surgical intervention may be recommended to treat metatarsalgia. If the is severe pain and inflammation persists, you may need surgical realignment of the metatarsal bones.
Orthopaedic Associates of St. Augustine’s team of dedicated and professional physicians are up-to-date on the latest treatments. Schedule a consultation today and get back on your feet.