The Beginner’s Guide To Metatarsalgia

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Do you experience pain in your feet? If so, you may have metatarsalgia. Metatarsalgia is a condition that affects the ball of your foot and can cause a great deal of pain. In this article, we will discuss the causes of metatarsalgia, as well as treatment options and prevention tips. We hope that this information will help you to better understand this condition and how to manage it.

What is Metatarsalgia?

Metatarsalgia is a condition that causes pain in the ball of your foot. The main symptom is sharp, shooting pain in the metatarsal heads, which are located just behind your toes. The pain is often worse when you walk or stand for long periods. Metatarsalgia can also cause numbness, tingling, and burning in the affected area. Metatarsalgia is most commonly found in people who:

  • Having a bunion or arthritis in your big toe, can weaken the big toe and put more strain on the ball of your foot.
  • Have had bunion surgery.
  • A stiff ankle that can’t be elevated to right angles with the leg, but points the foot down to the ground.
  • Are overweight.
  • Wear a pair of high-heeled shoes.
  • Hammertoes or claws that press the metatarsals down towards the ground
  • Feet with particular foot shapes such as a “cavus” foot, in which the bones in the front of the foot (metatarsals) angle down into the sole excessively, are also prone to this condition. There is an additional strain on your metatarsal bone because it is longer than usual.

Different Types of Metatarsalgia

  • Primary metatarsalgia: This type of metatarsalgia is caused by an underlying medical condition, such as arthritis or diabetes.
  • Secondary metatarsalgia: This type of metatarsalgia is caused by another foot condition, such as bunions or hammertoe.
  • Traumatic metatarsalgia: This type of metatarsalgia is caused by an injury, such as a stress fracture.

Treatment Options That Can Be Done at Home

If you are dealing with metatarsalgia, there are a few treatment options that can be done at home.  Do the following if you want to attempt to treat metatarsalgia yourself:

Rest: The most important thing you can do for metatarsalgia is to rest your feet as much as possible. Avoid activities that aggravate your symptoms, such as running or walking on hard surfaces.

Ice: Applying ice to the affected area can help reduce inflammation and pain. Ice for 20 minutes at a time, several times a day.

Pain relief: Over-the-counter pain medications, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can help relieve pain associated with metatarsalgia.

Orthotic devices: Wearing arch supports or other orthotic devices can help relieve pressure on the ball of your foot.

Surgery: In severe cases of metatarsalgia, surgery may be necessary to release the ligaments around the metatarsal heads.

When is the best time to visit a doctor?

Most cases of metatarsalgia can be treated at home without the need for a doctor’s visit. If you experience any of the following symptoms, you should see your doctor immediately:

  • Despite adopting self-help measures, the discomfort does not go away.
  • Your typical activities are severely hampered by the pain.
  • If you have sudden and severe foot pain, or if the shape of your foot changes, it could be an indication of a more serious problem that requires quick attention.

Complications of Metatarsalgia

If you have diabetes, you’re at risk of developing metatarsalgia. That’s because diabetes can cause nerve damage and circulation problems. The combination of these two factors can lead to the development of metatarsalgia.

Other complications can occur as a result of metatarsalgia. These include:

  • calluses and corns
  • hammertoe
  • Morton’s neuroma (a condition that affects the nerves in your feet)
  • bunions (a deformity of the big toe)

If you have any of these complications, it’s important to see a podiatrist or orthopedic surgeon. They can help you manage your symptoms and prevent the condition from getting worse. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to correct the deformities caused by metatarsalgia.

Preventing Recurrence of Metatarsalgia

There are a few things you can do to help prevent the recurrence of metatarsalgia. First, always wear shoes that fit properly and support your feet. Second, avoid high-impact activities or those that put excessive pressure on your feet. And third, maintain a healthy weight to reduce stress on your feet. If you have any concerns about your feet, be sure to consult with a podiatrist or other medical professional. With proper care and precautions, you can minimize your risk of developing metatarsalgia again in the future.


Recovery from metatarsalgia can take several weeks to months. The good news is that most people make a full recovery with conservative treatment. However, some people may experience persistent pain and require more aggressive treatment. If you have persistent pain or swelling, you should see your doctor for an evaluation. Treatment options for persistent pain include:

  • Steroid injections
  • Physical therapy
  • Orthotic devices
  • Surgery

Remember, The 3 Arches of Your Feet Still Need Support!

Maybe you have already felt the first symptoms of balance disorders or you want to prevent them from appearing in the first place. Consider getting a foot orthotic device or simply take care of your feet. Start by washing them thoroughly with a gentle soap whenever you take a shower. Being a very complex support system, your feet are your first line of defense against balance-related issues, since their arches provide you with the stability you need in your daily life. It’s time to put your foot down and push back against balance issues. With both feet on the ground, dedicate yourself to keeping them comfortable and healthy. Give us a call and we will scan your feet to make you custom orthotic inserts.

The Shoe Doctor has specialized in providing custom orthotics for 20 years. The right orthotic insoles can greatly reduce foot, knee, and hip pain while increasing performance and comfort. Russell at The Shoe Doctor will help educate and assist you in finding the perfect solution for your particular situation. We will create a 3D map of your feet and make custom orthotics for your hiking boots, everyday shoes, and everything else in between. These orthotics, along with our expert advice, will get you using orthotics like a pro, and have you performing at the peak of your abilities in no time!  If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, give The Shoe Doctor a call to get the best custom orthotics in the area! We are here to assist you, schedule your free consultation here!


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Russell Pate

Russell Pate

Russell has been a Certified Pedorthist for over 28 years.

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