Pain in the ball of the foot, the area just behind the toes, is likely metatarsalgia, an inflammatory condition that causes pain in the mid-foot metatarsal bones.
Metatarsalgia is an overuse injury that can be caused by activities like jumping and running. Wearing shoes that are too tight – or too loose – can also bring on this painful condition, as can excess weight or foot deformities.
Metatarsalgia causes sharp, burning or aching pain at the end of one or more of the metatarsal bones. You’ll notice that the pain worsens when running or walking, or when standing on a hard surface barefoot.
The pain usually comes on over a period of weeks or months, rather than suddenly.
At-home treatments including rest and icing may relieve the symptoms. But if the pain continues or gets worse, you need professional help from a podiatrist.
Changing shoes to styles with arch supports and wide toe boxes can help relieve symptoms. A metatarsal pad can help return the arch and toes to their normal anatomical positions, encouraging more support for the metatarsal heads.
Rarely, when these conservative measures don’t resolve the pain or if there are other complications such as hammertoe, we may discuss surgery with you to realign the metatarsal bones.
Custom-fitted orthotics and metatarsal pads can help eliminate the abnormal pressure or friction that caused the metatarsalgia.
Athletes or anyone who runs or works out must wear the proper footwear for their chosen activities. New shoes must have adequate cushioning and, for those who run or repeatedly jump on hard surfaces, choose rubber heels and soles for better shock absorption.