Metatarsalgia

What is Metatarsalgia?

Metatarsalgia is a medical condition marked by discomfort or pain and inflammation within the ball of the foot.

You may develop metatarsalgia from physical activities that cause impact on the feet such as running and jumping. This condition may also be the result of ill-fitting shoes.

Though metatarsalgia is generally not serious, the condition can sideline you. Luckily, there are many conservative treatments that work well to alleviate metatarsalgia symptoms. Proper footwear, in conjunction with shock-absorbing inserts or arch supports, could possibly all that is necessary to minimize or prevent future problems.

Picture of Metatarsalgia

What Causes Metatarsalgia?

With this fairly common condition, a metatarsal head becomes very painful and possibly inflamed, usually the result of excessive pressure over an extended period of time. It is normal to experience mild, recurring, or chronic pain with this condition. Ball-of-foot-pain is most often caused by ill-fitting footwear. This is common in women who wear restrictive shoes such as high heels or dress shoes. Shoes that have a narrow toe force the ball of the foot into a small amount of space. This will inhibit your ability to walk and can eventually lead to discomfort within the forefoot.

Other factors will also cause excessive pressure to the forefoot and may result in metatarsalgia. These include women’s dress shoes with tall heels or high impact activities. Additionally, as we age, the natural padding in our foot thins out and this can make the foot more susceptible to metatarsalgia.

Symptoms

Symptoms may include one or all of the following:

  • Tenderness at the sight of the plantar metatarsal padding
  • Pain and discomfort may be experienced on the metatarsal head’s plantar surface. This can often be accompanied by a callus formation
  • Pain and inflammation in the forefoot area
  • This condition can also be accompanied by calluses and bunions
  • Sharp, burning or aching pain
  • Pain that gets progressively worse while standing, walking or running and improves with rest
  • Shooting or sharp pain in your toes
  • Numbness of the toes
  • Pain experienced when flexing the feet
  • Severe pain experienced when walking without shoes on, especially while walking on hard surfaces.

Symptoms may develop suddenly, especially if you have increased your normal amount of jumping, running or other high-impact activities, but symptoms will most often develop over time.

Complications

If left untreated, metatarsalgia could potentially lead to:

  • Pain in other areas of the same foot, or even pain in the opposite foot
  • Pain in other areas of the body, such as the hip or lower back, as a result of limping due to foot pain.

Metatarsalgia Treatment

Not all problems you experience in your feet will need medical attention; sometimes your feet will ache after a punishing workout or a long day on your feet. However, it is advised you not ignore foot pains that last more than a couple of days. You should see a podiatrist if you experience burning pain in the forefoot or in the ball of the foot that does not improve by resting or wearing more comfortable shoes.

We Can Help You

As director of the Colorado Foot Institute, Dr. Mechanik is Board Certified in Foot Surgery and Board Certified in Reconstructive Rear Foot and Ankle surgery. He has the medical and surgical skills to treat your foot conditions. He and his family are natives of the Denver area.

Dr. Mechanik received his Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) from the the Dr. William M. Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine which is part of the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, a national leader in medical education.

Dr. Mechanik then went on to complete a twenty-four month post-graduate residency training program in Foot and Ankle Surgery.

Dr. Mechanik is a Fellow of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons and a  Diplomate, American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery.  He is Board Certified in Foot Surgery and Reconstructive Rearfoot/Ankle Surgery.

Dr. Mechanik will generally attempt to alleviate pain through more conservative methods of treatment. These conservative methods range from anti-inflammatory prescriptions and rest to orthotics and shoe inserts. These non-invasive treatment options are very effective, however, severe cases may require surgery. Dr. Mechanik will fully evaluate your condition, requesting x-rays if necessary, and discuss treatment options with you. Together, you and Dr. Mechanik will choose the recovery method that best suits your individual needs.