Metatar—what?  A long name for a condition of the feet that affects the ball-of-the-foot; it impacts both bone and joint.  The metatarsals are the lengthy bones that go from the toes to the mid-foot.  While the name may sound strange, this foot condition is very common.  Most people experience pain near the heads of these bones.  Some may notice discomfort around the big toe, while others endure pain that impacts that area by toes two, three, and four.  Common symptoms include pain and burning in the ball-of-the-foot, worsening discomfort when pressure is placed on the area, pain or tingling in the toes, and sometimes loss of feeling.  You may notice that the pain becomes worse if you flex your feet.

What causes ball-of-the-foot pain?

Improper shoe gear is the primary cause of painful inflammation in this area.  For instance, high-heeled shoes force pressure on the forefoot.  This is compounded if there isn’t enough toe space due to the style or size.  Purchase shoes that fit well, provide plenty of wiggle room in the toe box, and have a heel that is less than two inches.  If you’re holding onto your old favorites, it’s time to let them go.  Worn out shoes are often a problem, especially for runners.

Aging affects the entire body, and the feet are no exception.  While many people complain of gaining weight as they get older, fat in the feet actually diminishes.  This is problematic since the extra cushioning provided by this padding protects against some conditions such as metatarsalgia. 

Some physical activities put excess stress on the metatarsal regions of the feet. Running is just one example of a common exercise that can exacerbate this painful condition.  If you participate in high-impact workouts, monitor your feet closely. 

The structure and condition of an individual’s feet plays a role in this condition as well.  A bunion or other common deformities can change the way that weight is distributed across the feet.  If your arches are high, gait and weight distribution is also affected. 

Is metatarsalgia treatable?

Yes, once a diagnosis is made, the podiatrists at NorthPointe Foot & Ankle will explain the best treatment options for your case.  Their recommendations will be based on the cause of your pain, so imaging tools may be used to ensure that there is not a fracture present. 

Invasive measures are not usually necessary.  Instead, conservative treatments such as rest, changes in footwear, icing, anti-inflammatory medications, custom orthotics, and padding may be recommended. It is important to seek treatment at the onset of pain in order to get the most benefits from these methods.  Orthotics can redirect pressure from the ball-of-the-foot which will aid in recovery. 

If you are active, taking a break from your normal routine may be suggested.  This doesn’t mean that exercise must be eliminated.  Instead, switch to a low-impact activity such as swimming while you are recovering. 

Ball-of-the-foot pain can slow you down, but there is help available!  Make an appointment at our Berkley, MI office today.  Call (248) 545-0100, or request an appointment online.  Our podiatrists are happy to serve the Berkley, Southfield, Royal Oak, Oak Park, and Ferndale areas.