Metatarsalgia is a common overuse injury described as pain in the front part of the foot (forefoot). It is associated with increased stress over the balls of your foot (heads of your metatarsal bones). It commonly occurs in the area where the second, third and fourth toes meet the ball of the foot (the metatarsal heads).
What are the symptoms?
Metatarsalgia causes pain in the ball of your foot that can be worsened by walking or running. There may be a burning or aching sensation in the ball of the foot and some people compare the sensation to ‘walking on pebbles’. The intensity of the pain varies greatly from mild to severe. Shooting pains in the toes, tingling or numbness around the toes, and worsening pain when standing or moving are all common symptoms. The symptoms usually develop gradually over a period of months rather than coming on all of a sudden.
What can cause Metatarsalgia?
There are a number of different causes, anything that adds extra strain or pressure to the ball of the foot can lead to problems. Poorly fitting footwear such as narrow, high heeled shoes which force the foot into a small space can cause the condition. Certain foot shapes are more likely to suffer with Metatarsalgia, for example, a narrow, high arched foot where pressure is great on the front part of the foot, weakness in the intrinsic muscles of the feet can cause deformity in the ball of the foot and toes. Athletes who take part in high-impact sports which involve running or jumping have an increases risk of developing forefoot problems. Being overweight also increases pressure on the foot. As we age the protective ‘fat pad’ that sits over our metatarsal heads for protection begins to displace and wear thin, leaving the bones more exposed to pressure. Wearing inappropriate footwear and continuing with high-impact sports will worsen symptoms. Avoiding the activity that places high pressure on the forefoot is very important. Continued high pressure on the forefoot may lead to stress fractures of the metatarsals.
What the Podiatrists at Oxford Street Podiatry can do for you.
Your Podiatrist will assess your feet. Depending on how quickly symptoms have appeared will determine the appropriate treatment. Reducing levels of pressure over the area is essential and often avoiding certain types of activity for a period of time is necessary. Orthotics can be provided to improve the function of the foot and redistribute pressure to protect the ball of the foot. Barefoot strength and rehabilitation training can increase the internal support of the forefoot. Cushioning silicone gel insoles may also provide relief. Advice regarding appropriate footwear with good shock absorption is important.