Metatarsalgia is a type of pain that often affects the ball of the foot, causing discomfort and soreness. This condition is commonly experienced by individuals who regularly engage in physical activities such as running and exercise. Although runners are at the highest risk of developing metatarsalgia, anyone can experience the associated symptoms.
Fortunately, there are several treatment options available to manage the symptoms, including the use of cold packs, pain relievers, and supportive footwear. To learn more about metatarsalgia and its most commonly used treatment methods, read on.
What is Metatarsalgia?
Metatarsalgia is a disease that's caused by wearing shoes that are too small, wearing them in a way they weren't meant to be worn, or through repetitive stress. This can cause pain and discomfort in the foot's metatarsals, which are four bones in our feet.
They're at the ball of the foot between your toes and your heel bone; when one's experiencing this kind of discomfort, it's likely because of how much pressure is being directed at one of these metatarsals, or possibly because of bunions on top of those bones making it hard for one to wear shoes comfortably.
Runners who suffer from this condition often have high arches and wide feet, traits that are prone to pronation. These characteristics, combined with the stresses put on feet after hours of running, can lead to metatarsalgia, making it vital that runners keep their shoes in good condition and avoid shoes with poor arch support.
Regular runners need to take preventative measures so that metatarsalgia does not get to them in the future.
Metatarsalgia Causes & Risk Factors
Here are what causes pain and metatarsalgia symptoms; including risk factors:
Existing Foot Conditions:
- Tight Achilles tendon
- Rheumatoid Arthritis or Gout
- High arches
- Having prominent or large metatarsal heads
- Having a second toe longer than your big toe
- Tight or weak muscles in the toes or mid-foot
- Stress fractures in the foot from overuse or injury
- Large calluses
- Morton's neuroma
- Excessive pronation
- Carrying extra weight or obesity which can create forefoot pain.
- A high level of physical activity is great for physical fitness, but not everyone should do high-impact sports like running and jumping.
Symptoms of Metatarsalgia
The main metatarsalgia symptom is pain at the bases of your innermost four toes. This may agonize and feel like:
- Improve with rest
- Be sharp, aching, or burning
- Come on over months
- Get worse when running or walking
- Other symptoms that accompany metatarsal pain include:
- Numbness in the feet
- The feeling that there is a pebble in your shoe
- Tingling in the feet or toes
Tips on Recovering From Foot Pain
Foot pain is tricky since people have to spend time on their feet nearly daily. However, getting up and moving around is important for both daily activities and staying fit. The following guidelines can help you deal with your foot issues until the pain clears up or becomes more manageable.
Consider scheduling physical therapy for a comprehensive home exercise program that addresses foot dysfunction and other similar issues like gait (walking) to help rehabilitate your feet.
For the long-term health of your feet, invest in shoes that fit correctly without pinching or extra room, which could lead to sores and skin problems. Make smart choices with getting things like braces, as these can help with any aches and pains you might be experiencing, but only if they're placed in proper locations and used properly!
Here are some tips on how to prevent Metatarsalgia:
- Wear shoes that fit well and provide good arch support. Shoes that are too tight or loose can put stress on the ball of the foot and contribute to metatarsalgia. Shoes with good arch support can distribute the weight evenly across the foot and reduce stress on the metatarsal bones.
- Avoid activities that put stress on the ball of the foot. If you are prone to metatarsalgia, avoiding activities that stress the ball of the foot, such as running, jumping, or dancing, is important. If you must participate in these activities, wear shoes with good arch support and take breaks often.
- Lose weight if you are overweight or obese. Excess weight can put stress on the feet and contribute to metatarsalgia. If you are overweight or obese, losing weight can help to reduce the stress on your feet and reduce your risk of developing metatarsalgia.
- Stretch your feet regularly. Stretching your feet can help to improve flexibility and reduce pain. Stretch your feet several times daily, especially before and after activities that stress your feet.
- Strengthen your feet. Strengthening your feet can help improve your arches' support and reduce stress on the metatarsal bones. You can do several exercises to strengthen your feet, such as toe raises and foot curls.
- Take breaks often. If you are standing for long periods, take breaks often to sit down or walk around. This will help to reduce the stress on your feet.
- Use a metatarsal pad. A metatarsal pad is a small cushion that is placed in the shoe under the ball of the foot. It can help to reduce pain by redistributing the weight evenly across the foot.
- See a doctor. If you are experiencing pain in the ball of the foot, it is important to see a doctor to get a diagnosis and treatment. With proper treatment, most people with metatarsalgia can make a full recovery.
Metatarsalgia Recovery Time
Can we cure metatarsalgia?
A: Yes, a full recovery from metatarsalgia is possible. Through diligent at-home treatments, using foot gizmos like insoles and arch supports, rest, workout modifications, and appropriate shoes for your feet, you can protect your metatarsal and reduce pain.
Although I am always a big proponent of preventative medicine through healthy lifestyles, it's also important to learn how to manage symptoms early on to avert more severe problems from coming up along the way.
Stop Metatarsalgia Pain
While rarely serious, metatarsalgia can stop you dead in your tracks when it comes to running. Fortunately, this type of foot pain usually responds well to treatment and, in most cases, gets better with rest and icing.
To prevent the symptoms from coming back, stay off your feet as much as possible and invest in supportive shoes, use pain-relieving metatarsal pads, and exercises to strengthen your joints such as stretching or even trying a physical therapy session.
If you're getting frustrated by how long the recovery is taking, remember that sometimes it takes time for a problem area to heal, so don't give up too soon.