Metatarsalgia is pain in the ball of the foot. It is usually felt in the sole of the foot and sometimes feels like “walking on pebbles”. It affects the metatarsals, the bones connecting the ankle bones to the toes. Your metatarsals support your weight while standing or doing any activity and so can be a common area of discomfort. It can be very uncomfortable and interfere with your normal daily activities, but will often improve with some exercises, footwear changes and cushioning improvements to reduce excessive pressure.


Metatarsalgia tends to develop gradually over time and may be felt in a small area of the foot, or across the whole width of it. One or both feet may be affected depending on the cause.

Pain presents as:

> a burning or aching sensation

> a shooting pain

> tingling or numbness in the toes

> a feeling like there’s a small stone stuck under the foot


> poorly fitting footwear – high-heeled or restrictive shoes can force the ball of the foot into a small amount of space, which puts more pressure on that area and reduces the blood flow

> high-impact sports – sports like running or tennis put extra pressure on the feet

> being overweight or obese – this can also increase the pressure on the feet

> abnormalities of bone structure – having narrow, high-arched or flat feet can increase your risk

> joint and foot conditions – including arthritis, gout, bunions, bursitis, Morton’s Neuroma, hammer toes and stress fractures

> older people and people with diabetes.

Treatment options:

> rest your feet – put your feet up regularly and avoid activities that make the pain worse; try low-impact activities such as cycling, cross trainer or swimming

> ice therapy -apply an ice pack to the affected area for as often as needed

> footwear modifications

> use shock-absorbing pads or insoles – these can fit inside your shoes to help cushion your feet

> maintain a healthy weight – adopting a healthy, balanced diet and doing regular low-impact exercises can help you lose weight

> sugary fatty foods can increase inflammation in the body so try to reduce your intake of these

> increase your intake of foods that reduce inflammation such as fruit and veg, nuts, berries and green leafy vegetables

> medication to reduce severe pain is sometimes required

> orthotic insoles if there is a structural abnormality that is increasing the pressure on your metatarsal area

Don’t ignore foot pain now or you will regret it in the future!!

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