Definition & Function

Definition: Metatarsalgia is a catch-all phrase that basically means 'a pain in the ball of the foot'.The ball of the foot is made up of 5 joints called the metatarsophalangeal joints. It is the joint at which the toes begin. Underneath these joints, there exists a natural fat pad for absorption of shock and protection to the joints. Also, an arch exists at this joint in an upward arc, called a metatarsal arch.

Function: These joints have movement in a hinge form, up and down to move the toes. Also, they allow for shock absorption and help propel us into our next step.

Mechanism of Injury

Pain in the ball of the foot can come on insidiously or gradually or can result due to trauma, such as falling or high impact sports.

Signs & Symptoms

  • Pain in the ball of the foot can range from a dull ache to a sharp shooting pain, occassionally proceeding right into the toes
  • A sensation of walking on a pebble may be experienced
  • Swelling or redness may be apparent at the ball of the foot calluses may form under the ball of the foot where excessive forces exist


  • Can be as a result of the metatarsal arch dropping
  • Degeneration or thinning of the fat pad
  • Ill fitting or narrow shoes (high heeled or pointy shoes)
  • Flat or over-pronated feet
  • Prominent metatarsal heads
  • Arthritis
  • Short first toe (Mortons toe) -overuse or prolonged walking or standing
  • Trauma to the foot
  • Weakening of the ligaments, muscles and plantar fascia

Pedorthic Treatments

Custom made Orthotics are one of the most effective methods to reduce your metararsal pain. They are able to redistribute and load the foot in a different way in order to decrease stress to the affected area. Pedorthists use interventions such as a metatarsal domes and bars to offload stress to lift and separate the metatarsal heads. Proper footwear is also pivotal to your recovery such as a structured shoe with a good forefoot rocker bottom and increased cushioning. Talk to your Pedorthist about proper footwear choices for you.

Other Treatment

  • STRETCHING: calf stretch
  • ICE: 10-15 minutes to relieve pain and reduce swelling
  • OTHER TREATMENT may include pain and anti-inflammatory medication.

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