What is metatarsalgia?
The metatarsals are bones that connect the toes to the ankles. Metatarsalgia is a painful and serious foot condition that affects the ball of the foot, which often results from overuse, over-exercise during high-impact sports, arthritis, wearing high heels, or inappropriate footwear.
The area under your toes can be a common source of pain because it supports your weight when standing, walking, or running. The pain can feel like a tingling or numbness, or sharp shooting or burning pain. You may feel pain in a small area under your toes, or it can be felt across the whole width of the foot. Symptoms should be caught early since the condition worsens over time.
This condition can be irritated by standing for a long period of time, stretching your foot, or walking barefoot or with minimal support. Intense exercise like running or jumping can also worsen the symptoms.
How to care your foot before metatarsalgia treatments?
A few ways to manage the pain is to wear cushioned footwear that supports the arches of your feet and resting your feet regularly. If you participate in high-impact sports or run, consider taking breaks for a few days or weeks. Try low-impact activities like swimming or cycling until the symptoms are alleviated.
To help ease your Metatarsalgia pain, try these tips:
- Rest your foot: Avoid stressing your foot to prevent further injury. Elevate your foot after standing or walking
- Cool the affected area: Apply ice packs to the affected area for about 20 minutes and several times a day. Wrap the ice packs in a thin towel to protect your skin
- Over-the-counter pain reliever: Take ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), naproxen sodium (Aleve) or aspirin to reduce pain and inflammation
- Proper shoes. Wear appropriate shoes for the sports. Avoid too-tight or too-loose shoes and limit your wearing of platform shoes and high heels.
- Metatarsal pads: Place off-the-shelf pads in your shoes just ahead of the metatarsal bone to help deflect stress from the painful area
- Arch supports: For some patients, our foot doctor might recommend arch supports to minimize stress on the metatarsal bones and improve foot function. You can buy arch supports over-the-counter, or they can be custom fitted.
Metatarsalgia common causes
- Arthritis: Rheumatoid arthritis is a common cause to Metatarsalgia
- Fluid in the foot: People with poor circulation in the foot can cause tissue damage and led to Metatarsalgia
- Improper Footwear: Shoes that are too tight around the toes can cause pain or high heels that add pressure to the ball of the foot as it is forced into a tight space
- Overweight: The excess body weight can put a strain on the foot. Diabetes can also cause Metatarsalgia
- Age: The pad of fat that protects the foot can get thinner with age, leading to Metatarsalgia
- High impact sports: Running or playing high impact sports increases the risk, as the feet absorb large amounts of force.
- The shape of the foot and toes: Having a high arch or a second toe that is longer than the big toe can add to the pressure.
- Stress fractures: Small breaks in the toe bones can cause pain when pressure is applied.
- Stiff ankle: This can add pressure to the metatarsal bones.
Whare are the effective Metatarsalgia Treatments?
- In-Home Metatarsalgia treatments: In many cases, in-home treatments such as resting, changing shoes, or using a metatarsal pad might be all you need to relieve signs and symptoms.
- Metatarsal Surgery: In more serious cases, when conservative treatment doesn’t relieve the pain and your Metatarsalgia is complicated by foot conditions such as hammertoe, surgery to realign the metatarsal bones might be an option.