Pain in Ball of Foot – All You Need To Know

Pain in ball of foot (Metatarsalgia) is defined as a foot health problem caused by chronic irritation of nerves, muscles, and bones in the metatarsals region. It can be brought on with overuse and injury to the foot.

Individuals with metatarsalgia experience pain in the ball of the foot and it is sometimes accompanied by swelling. This foot problem is addressed as a symptom rather than a disease.

The most frequent part of the foot that is affected by metatarsalgia is the ball part of the bone or the metatarsals; hence, the name.

Individuals who are commonly affected by this issue are athletes who take part in high-impact sports such as running. Field runners and soccer players also put great strength or pressure on their feet.


Causes of Pain in Ball of Foot

Athletes who take part in intense sports involving running or jumping are at high risk of injury. While track and field runners are exposed to the highest level of traumatic force to the feet, many other athletes including tennis, football, baseball, and soccer players also experience forefoot injuries.

In addition to high-intensity sports, metatarsalgia is caused by being overweight/obese, having foot deformities such as hammer toe, calluses and bunions, and also feet with high-arches and Morton’s toe.

Symptoms of Pain in The Ball of The Foot

What are the Signs or Symptoms to Watch Out For?

The symptoms of metatarsalgia can range from moderate to severe and it is always helpful to have a full and more comprehensive understanding of metatarsalgia, but the following are the most common symptoms:

  • Pain in the ball of the foot.
  • Pain increasing during weight bearing.
  • Tenderness on the affected part.
  • Pain during toe flexion (when toes are bent downwards).
  • Pain radiating to the big toe and its adjacent toes.
  • Excessive calluses.
  • Pain during walking or running.
  • Numbness sensation of the toes.
  • Increased pain when walking barefoot

One condition that has a similar condition to that of metatarsalgia is Morton’s neuroma. A differential diagnosis of metatarsalgia, Morton’s neuroma is also due to irritation of nerves. In addition to foot pain, individuals affected with Morton’s neuroma will also feel a tingling sensation to the toes.

Pain in The Ball of Foot Treatments

An acute phase of metatarsalgia treatment includes cold compress and pressure bandage application. The patient is advised not to put any pressure on the foot and begin with a passive range of motion exercises. The patient is also instructed on how to properly use metatarsal pads and other orthotics which will provide immediate foot relief.

As mentioned earlier, foot deformities like callus and bunions may contribute to metatarsalgia. While these may contribute to pressure on the foot and aggravate the condition, it is not advised by medical professionals to shave or remove them.

Meanwhile, the utilization of the orthotic device is not a general rule of treatment for patients with these symptoms. This depends on the individual’s condition and preference of the individual.

Chronic metatarsalgia treatment involves physical therapy to relieve inflammation and excessive pressure on the foot. During the chronic phase of treatment, the patient can now perform active range of motion exercises. However, the patient is still not allowed to resume weight-bearing activities.

Meanwhile, conditioning activities like swimming is a great form of exercise. Surgery is not a common mode of treatment for this foot problem.

Surgical intervention is only advised for severe cases to balance weight bearing or whenever initial treatments have failed. Surgery can be in the form of shoe modification with orthosis or surgical alignment of metatarsals.

For short-term pain relief, the patient may take NSAID’s or other drugs for pain relief.

How to Choose the Best Treatment for Metatarsalgia?

To answer this question straight off the bat, there is no exact treatment for metatarsalgia.

The treatment regimen for individuals diagnosed with metatarsalgia depends on the extent or duration of symptoms and personal preferences.

Metatarsalgia is not a life-threatening condition but it can clearly disrupt daily activities due to severe pain. The pain can be sometimes extreme, sharp and throbbing even when walking at a normal pace.

Initial Treatment

When the foot injury is recent, the primary intervention for metatarsalgia is a cold compress or cold application. This is done for 15 minutes several times a day at intervals. Cold application reduces swelling and inflammation in the area. Along with the cold application, there should be resting periods, not undertaking physical activities and not putting so much weight on the foot. When relaxing or sleeping, it is best to elevate the affected area to reduce swelling formation.

Physical Therapy

It is undertaken for restoration and recovery following a foot injury. Physical therapy will also strengthen the joints, muscles, and bones. Other forms of conditioning and training while during the process of healing should be encouraged such as swimming. Physical therapy may also entail the installation of orthotic devices to uphold normal muscle function.

Surgical Intervention

Surgery is the last resort for metatarsalgia and is only in the case of very serious foot problems where no relief can be found by simple methods. Nonetheless, when calluses or bunions have caused the injury, it is not obligatory to remove them entirely by means of surgery; scraping or debridement is the treatment of choice for them; however, to provide restoration of foot health, wearing supportive shoes with orthotics is a good consideration.


Taking medication, such as NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs) can relieve any acute pain. Nevertheless, for chronic cases, steroid injections are given.

Preventative Measures

To put a stop to experiencing any foot injury, follow these simple preventive measures:

  • Choose footwear with the correct fit.
  • Wear footwear with adequate cushioning
  • Control weight.
  • Avoid heels with very thin insoles

Any person who suffers metatarsalgia can find relief within weeks.

Nonetheless, overall recovery could still depend upon the duration and nature (or cause) of the injury. It must be stressed that before re-entering sports and strenuous activities, athletes should be completely healed and free from signs and symptoms. Athletes must also be officially discharged by their physicians before returning to any type of sports activity.


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