Metatarsalgia (pain in ball of foot)
Metatarsalgia is a term for pain that occurs in the front section of the foot. It can range from mild to severe and often gets worse when you stand or do certain activities. It is sometimes described as a burning or aching sensation. You may also have shooting pains, tingling or numbness in your toes. Some people also experience a sensation that feels like walking on pebbles.
Metatarsalgia occurs for a wide variety of reasons, but is often caused by increased pressure on certain areas. This leads to the soft tissues and bone being damaged. Common reasons why people experience pain include:
- Wearing high heels or tight-fitting shoes
- Being overweight or obese (very overweight with a body mass index of 30 or above)
- High-intensity exercise such as running, tennis or squash
Most cases of metatarsalgia can be treated using self-care techniques such as:
- RICE – this means rest, applying an ice pack, using a bandage to compress the foot, and elevating the foot
- Taking painkillers such as paracetamol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, to relieve pain
- Changing footwear or avoiding activities that are making the symptoms worse
- Using shock-absorbing insoles, which can be fitted inside your shoes to help cushion the pressure when walking
If the pain doesn't improve, see your GP, practice nurse or health visitor. If necessary, they can refer you to a professional service that specialises in foot care, such as our clinic.