No one likes to hurt, especially if the pain is in your feet and keeps you from doing your favorite activities. When the ball of your foot hurts, just behind your toes, it is called metatarsalgia, and there can be many reasons for the discomfort. We’ll look first at what might put you at risk for developing this soreness.
Defining the Risks
One of the most common causes for developing metatarsalgia is intense activity. You may have upped your distance or speed in your running routine, tried out a new sport, or joined the military and are dealing with basic training. Suddenly asking your feet to do more than they are used to may stress the tissues and cause pain.
The same thing happens if you’ve put on too many pounds lately. Extra weight increases the pressure on the bones and soft tissue with every step, and they could move out of position or become irritated and inflamed.
The problem may have a genetic cause—not that there’s a gene that causes it, but because you inherited a foot structure like high arches or a long second toe that makes you more prone to developing problems in your forefoot.
Diseases like arthritis or gout could also cause severe pain in the joints of your forefoot. Arthritis involves deterioration of the cartilage in the joint, and gout is an inability of your body to get rid of excess uric acid, which can form tiny, sharp crystals in your joints and make them extremely painful.
Finally, even your shoe choice can be a factor. Heels higher than a couple of inches can force more weight onto the ball of your foot, and tight toe caps can pinch the toes together, affecting the muscles, nerves, and bone alignment.
Damage That Leads to Metatarsalgia
If any of the above applies to you, your risk of developing one or more of the following conditions is higher:
- Stress fractures – The metatarsals are the long bones in the front part of your foot that connect to your toes. When they experience extra stress or pressure, tiny cracks can develop in them over time called stress fractures. Even though the bones don’t break in two, the fractures can be extremely painful.
- Deformities – Whether from inherited foot structures, a gait problem (the way you walk), or from wearing the wrong shoes, bones can move out of position (as with bunions) or muscles become imbalanced (as with hammer or claw toes). These irregularities can make your foot very uncomfortable.
- Morton’s neuroma – The nerves in your foot can be pinched between the toes when wearing tight shoes, leading to swelling, numbness, and pain.
- Capsulitis – Each of the MTP joints (between the metatarsals and toe bones) is held together by a capsule of ligaments. Too much stress on the joint can cause inflammation in these ligaments and make your forefoot ache.
How to Treat Forefoot Pain
At Atlantic Foot & Ankle Associates we will design a treatment that is right for your situation. We may recommend starting with RICE therapy – Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation – to reduce your pain and swelling. We may also use anti-inflammatory medications, either taken orally or injected into the site. Many times orthotic devices can bring relief. These can be over-the-counter shoe pads and inserts, or we can design custom supports specifically for your feet to correct your particular problem.
If you have metatarsalgia pain in the ball of your foot, don’t delay. Call us for an appointment at one of the locations listed below and let us help you find relief. There is no reason to suffer with debilitating pain one more day than you have to! You can also schedule an appointment online.