Many people experience pain in the ball of the foot at some point in their lives. As we age, the likelihood of developing such pain increases. Ball of foot pain impacts our ability and willingness to get out and about. While some conditions can cause it, the pain is often a result of easily remedied issues, such as improper footwear. So if you are suffering from pain in the ball of your foot or toes, you don’t need to fret! A number of treatments are available to relieve your pain, and you can take simple steps to prevent it altogether. In this guide, you will find helpful information about the causes and symptoms of ball of foot pain, along with available treatments.
What is Pain in the Ball of the Foot?
Given that the foot is designed to support and withstand the weight of a human body, it’s no surprise that the foot is prone to painful problems. Pain in the ball of the foot occurs when the metatarsal bones, which connect your toes to the rest of your foot, become inflamed, injured, or out of place.
Pain in the ball of the foot is a common ailment. It sometimes presents as a sharp pain in the ball of the foot, and in other cases, it feels like a dull ache. Inflammation and swelling in the ball of the foot are also common.
What is Metatarsalgia?
Metatarsalgia is the technical term for ball of foot pain. It’s also referred to as a stone bruise. People suffering with metatarsalgia will experience pain and may also notice inflammation or swelling. Luckily, there are many options for tackling this problem and, in some cases, treatment may entail only a slight change to your footwear.
The pain and inflammation caused by metatarsalgia can make walking, running, and playing sports difficult to impossible. In the worst cases, the pain can be severe.
Is Ball of Foot Pain Common?
If you are dealing with ball of foot pain, rest assured you are not alone. The chance of experiencing metatarsalgia increases with age—as the cushioned pads under our feet begin to thin, they provide less support and shock absorption.
Ball of foot pain is particularly common among women who wear high heels, due to additional stress placed on this section of the foot.
Understanding Pain in the Ball of the Foot
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s take a detailed look. The metatarsal bones are structured to bear your weight evenly. A change to the structure of your foot—such as from an impact—can create unequal stress or strain. If one bone presses into another, the nerves between the metatarsal heads can become inflamed.
Causes of Ball of Foot Pain
There are many causes of metatarsalgia. One of the most common is the repeated use of uncomfortable or ill-fitting shoes. Conditions like diabetes, arthritis, and obesity can cause or exacerbate pain in the ball of your foot.
If you notice ball of foot pain most regularly while wearing a certain pair of shoes, you can assume your shoes are the culprit. Regularly wearing high-heeled shoes causes additional pressure to the ball of your foot and is a likely cause of metatarsalgia.
Running and High-Impact Exercise
Many people notice pain in ball of foot while running. If you regularly practice sports or carry out high-impact exercise, unfortunately, this could be causing the problem. Of course, pain is more common when walking, running, or putting weight on your feet, so exacerbated pain during exercise could merely be a symptom, rather than the cause.
Arthritis is another common culprit of ball of foot pain, and the joint pain caused by arthritis and osteoarthritis can worsen metatarsalgia symptoms. As arthritis affects a large number of people—particularly older people—it’s important to consider as a potential cause of ball of foot pain.
The thinning of the fat pad underneath the ball of the foot heavily impacts the foot’s ability to absorb shock. The ensuing pain can make walking or standing difficult, particularly if coupled with other debilitating, age-related conditions.
Diabetes causes many foot problems due to its effect on the nerves. Damaged nerves in the feet can cause pain, and diabetes is an additional risk factor for metatarsalgia.
If you are overweight or obese, the weight and pressure placed on your feet is increased. The excess weight and the strain it puts on the balls of your feet can make standing or walking difficult or uncomfortable.
Morton’s neuroma is a foot condition that affects the nerves between your toes. The condition is particularly prevalent among middle-aged women. The tissue around the nerves thickens and can cause notable pain. This creates additional pressure around the metatarsal bones.
Certain Foot Shapes or Bone Structures
The shape and structure of the bones in your feet affect your likelihood of developing metatarsalgia. For example, an overly long metatarsal bone often causes foot problems due to the additional pressure it adds to the region. Flat feet or high arches can also cause issues. Hammer toe is another possible root cause of ball of foot pain, given its tendency to direct the bones downward.
If you have suffered a stress fracture—a small break in the toe bones—your chance of developing pain in the ball of your foot is increased. Stress fractures are most common among very active people, such as athletes.
A bunion splint protects and supports your injured toe to relieve pain. ( See Product)
Bunions are another potential cause of ball of foot pain. A bunion, or hallux vagus, is a deformity of the big toe joint. It can cause pain and swelling and may change the positioning of the first metatarsal bone. A bunion splint is a great tool for dealing with this issue.
Freiberg disease is a disorder affecting the second metatarsal head. Though uncommon, it is another potential cause of metatarsalgia. It leads to the collapse of the metatarsal joint and is most prevalent among people with overly long or short metatarsal bones.
Sesamoiditis is a form of tendonitis that affects the sesamoid bones—two very small bones beneath the big toe joint, attached only by tendons. Active people like runners and dancers are most at risk of developing sesamoiditis, which usually causes a dull, aching pain.
Ball of Foot Pain Symptoms
Metatarsalgia pain tends to come on gradually, as opposed to a sudden onset of pain, and can worsen with time. In some instances, mild discomfort can progress to severe pain. Unsurprisingly, the pain is more notable when walking or running, as this is when you are placing weight and pressure on the area.
For some people, metatarsalgia results in a sharp or shooting pain, while others experience a dull ache. The pain might be localized in the inner ball of the foot, or it could spread out, causing pain in the ball of the foot and the toes.
Common symptoms of metatarsalgia include:
- Sharp pain in the ball of foot
- Dull, aching pain
- Pain in the ball of foot and toes
- Pain in the ball of foot and big toe
- The feeling of walking on a pebble
- Tingling or numbness
Treatment for Ball of Foot Pain
A variety of treatments are available for metatarsalgia. These include both short-term and long-term remedies. Below is our list of the best ball of foot pain remedies.
Find appropriate footwear.
First and foremost, seek out comfortable footwear that fits you properly and supports the entire foot. Getting your feet measured professionally is a good idea, particularly since your feet can be slightly different sizes. This tackles a common root cause of foot pain, making it one of the best remedies.
Use shock-absorbing cushions and pads.
Aside from insoles, another short-term solution is a cushion or pad for ball of foot pain relief. They are easy to find, and you can experiment with different types to see which suits your needs. Pop into your local pharmacy or sports shop, or order a cushion or pad online— buying medical supplies online has all kinds of perks!
Take anti-inflammatory painkillers.
You may want to consider painkillers as a short-term option. These provide ball of foot pain relief, at least temporarily. Anti-inflammatory painkillers like ibuprofen are recommended most often to treat this type of pain.
Use metatarsal pads and orthotic inserts.
Metatarsal pads are one of the most comfortable ways to address ball of foot pain. ( See Product)
Metatarsal pads provide additional cushioning and support and even help redistribute the weight. To ensure optimal effectiveness from your metatarsal pads or inserts, read the instructions carefully and secure your pad in the correct place.
Insoles for shoes are an easy and economical way to improve the comfort of your shoes, and custom orthotics are a smart option for many people.
Our next suggestion may seem obvious, but in today’s hectic world, we sometimes forget self-care. Foot pain is exacerbated by standing and bearing weight, so give yourself a rest every now and then.
Apply an ice pack to the affected area to relieve your pain, particularly if you experience a burning sensation or swelling in the ball of the foot. Combine fifteen minutes of rest with ice therapy to feel a notable difference.
Aim to achieve a healthy weight.
Carrying excess weight has a number of health implications. If you are overweight and suffering from ball of foot pain, it’s worth taking action to maintain a healthier weight, through a healthy diet and light exercise.
If pain or swelling makes exercise difficult, try some of our earlier tips—such as replacing your footwear or investing in cushioned pads—to ease the pain first.
Visit a health professional.
In the event of ongoing pain despite home remedies, a doctor can perform further tests or refer you to a podiatrist or physiotherapist. While pain in the ball of your feet is not unusual, it can have a serious, debilitating impact on your ability to live your life normally. If you have found no relief in the remedies above or have been suffering for a long time, you should visit your doctor.
Preventing Ball of Foot Pain
Aside from treating ball of foot pain, take action to prevent it from occurring in the first place, or from happening again.
- Analyze your footwear. Old, worn-out shoes or ill-fitting shoes can, in the long term, cause problems for the balls of your feet. Try replacing them with a newer, more comfortable pair.
- Avoid high heels. Sadly, high heels are particular troublemakers. You don’t need to stop wearing them altogether, but alternating between heels and flats can give your feet a much-needed break.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Losing excess weight is one of the best things you can do for your feet, and it’s a sure-fire way to improve your overall health and wellbeing.
- Switch high-impact exercise for low-impact exercise. If high-impact running or exercise is causing problems, give the balls of your feet a break by incorporating low-impact workouts like yoga or tai chi into your routine.
- Invest in good insoles. Take some of the pressure off your feet by adding comfortable insoles.
Insoles are important for not only relieving ball of foot pain, but for preventing it from happening in the first place. ( See Product)
Say Goodbye to Metatarsalgia
Pain, inflammation, or swelling in the balls of your feet make life uncomfortable. Get back on your feet by making small changes—for a big difference in your health and happiness. Soon, metatarsalgia will be a thing of the past!