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Metatarsalgia is a condition characterized by inflammation of the nerve between the metatarsal bones (bones between toes and ankles). The classic symptom of metatarsalgia is sharp pain in the ball of the foot.

People with metatarsalgia experience localized discomfort in the area between the arch and the toe joints, often described as the feeling of walking on pebbles. The disorder is common among athletes but also affects people who wear ill-fitting shoes on a daily basis.

Causes of metatarsalgia

Metatarsalgia problems develop when something alters the mechanics of the foot, putting too much pressure on the metatarsal bones. Usually multiple factors are involved.

Causes of metatarsalgia include: 

  • Age (as we age the pads on our feet thin out). 
  • Arthritis. 
  • Athletic activities (runners have a high risk of developing metatarsalgia).
  • Foot deformities, including hammertoe, high arches, and bunions. 
  • Fractures of the metatarsal bones. 
  • Morton's Neuroma. 
  • Obesity (excess weight puts more pressure on the forefoot when walking). 
  • Poorly fitting shoes (tight, narrow shoes put more pressure on the ball of the foot).

Metatarsalgia symptoms

The classic symptom of metatarsalgia is pain in the forefoot and pain in the toes. The pain becomes worse during activity and increases when walking barefoot on hard surfaces.

Metatarsalgia symptoms may develop suddenly or over time. If you are experiencing persistent pain in the ball of your foot, talk to your doctor. It is best not to ignore any type of foot pain that lasts more than a few days.

Treatment of metatarsalgia

Metatarsalgia is painful and annoying, but it is not a serious condition. The following conservative measures can usually relieve metatarsalgia pain: 

  • Anti-inflammatory medication. 
  • Arch supports. 
  • Change in footwear. 
  • Metatarsal pads. 
  • Rest and ice.
  • Shoe inserts.

It is important to be proactive when it comes to metatarsalgia pain. Limit your physical activity, avoid ill-fitting footwear, and maintain a healthy body weight. If pain persists, consult a physician to rule out other foot disorders or injuries.

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