Metatarsalgia generally refers to pain that affects the ball of your foot. It is sometimes called a “stone bruise.” It most often occurs in the first metatarsal head (the ball of the foot just under the big toe) where there are two small sesamoid bones.
You may have metatarsalgia if you experience any of the following symptoms: pain in the ball of your foot; a burning sensation at the base of your toes; pain localized at the base of your big toe; numbness or tingling in your toes; shooting pain in your toes; pain that increases when you flex your feet or when you walk barefoot; the sensation that there is a pebble or stone in your shoe.
Metatarsalgia is very common among athletes who spend a lot of time jumping or running. It can also be caused by ill-fitting shoes that do no distribute the weight of the body properly across the foot, or that fail to cushion and protect the ball of the foot when it comes in contact with the ground. People with bunions, hammertoe or other foot deformities are more likely to develop metatarsalgia. Any deformity that alters the position or shape of the metatarsals can lead to this kind of foot pain. People who are particularly heavy are also more likely to develop the position, as their extra weight puts stress on the small bones of the feet.
If you think you have metatarsalgia, the first step is to ensure you are wearing supportive footwear. Runners and athletes may need to throw out an old pair of athletic shoes and start anew. If you have been spending a lot of time in flip-flops or non-supportive sandals, give your feet a little additional support for a couple of days. Replace your flip-flops with athletic shoes that offer arch support. Some people who suffer from metatarsalgia find that orthopedic inserts can be very helpful when it comes to reducing pain in the ball of the foot. Certain brands of orthotics even produce inserts that are specifically designed to alleviate pain associated with this condition. Other people find that adding arch supports to their shoes does more to relieve pain than gel inserts.
In addition to the above treatments, stay off your feet as much as possible. If the pain in your foot does not go away after changing your shoes or taking a couple of days off from physical activity, talk with your podiatrist.