Metatarsalgia – Symptoms and causes

metatarsalgia test

This is a common overuse injury. The term metatarsalgia is used to describe pain and inflammation in the ball of your foot. You can develop metatarsalgia if you are participating in activities which involve jumping and running. Also there can be other causes for metatarsalgia, such as shoes that are too tight or too loose and foot deformities. Generally, the metatarsalgia is not serious condition but it can sideline you. There are many home treatments, such as ice and rest which can give you relief from symptoms. It is known that when you wear proper footwear with shock – absorbing insoles or arch supports, then this can prevent or minimize the future problems associated with this condition.

Metatarsalgia symptoms

Here are some symptoms of metatarsalgia:

  • A feeling of having a pebble in your shoe
  • Sharp or shooting pain, numbness or tingling in your toes
  • Pain that worsens when you stand, run, flex your foot or walk, especially barefoot on a hard surface, and it improves when you rest
  • Sharp, aching or burning pain in the ball of your foot which is the part of the sole just behind your toes

We know that not all foot problems need medical care. There are some cases when your feet ache is caused by a long day of standing or a punishing workout. But if the foot pain lasts more than a few days, then you should not ignore it. You should visit your doctor and talk with him if you have a burning pain in the ball of your foot which does not improve after you have changes your shoes and modified your activities.

metatarsalgia shoes

Metatarsalgia causes

There are some cases when a single factor can be a cause for metatarsalgia. In most cases, several factors are involved in metatarsalgia, such as

  • Morton’s neuroma: In this condition there is noncancerous growth of fibrous tissue around a nerve which usually happens between the 3rd and 4th metatarsal heads. This is causing symptoms which are similar to those of metatarsalgia and it can lead to metatarsal stress.
  • Stress fractures: There can be small breaks in toe bones or metatarsals which can be painful and they can change the way you put weight on your foot.
  • Poorly fitting shoes: One of the most common causes for metatarsalgia in women are high heels because they transfer extra weight to the front of your foot. Also athletic shoes or shoes with a narrow toe box that lack support and padding can lead to metatarsalgia.
  • Excess weight: When you have extra pounds, then it means you have more pressure on your metatarsals because most of your body weight transfers to your forefoot when you move. When you lose weight, then it can help you to reduce or eliminate symptoms.
  • Foot deformities: If you wear high heels or too small shoes, then this can cause your foot to be misshapen. The swollen and painful bumps at the base of your big toe (bunions) and the downward – curling toe (hammertoe) can cause metatarsalgia.
  • Certain foot shapes: It is known that the high arch can put extra pressure on the metatarsals. Also if you have a second toe that is longer than the big toe could lead to metatarsalgia because this causes more weight than normal to be shifted to second metatarsal head.
  • Intense training or activity: It is known that distance runners have a big risk of metatarsalgia because the front of their foot absorbs significant force when the person runs. But every single person who participate in a high – impact sport has a risk of developing metatarsalgia, especially if his or her shoes are worn or fit poorly.

Metatarsalgia risk factors

Every single person can develop metatarsalgia but you have increased risk of developing it, if you:

  • Have inflammatory arthritis, such as gout or rheumatoid arthritis
  • Have other foot problems, including hammertoe and calluses on the bottom of the feet
  • Are overweight or obese
  • Wear high heels, shoes that do not fit properly or shoes with spikes, such as cleats
  • Participate in high – impact sports which involve running and jumping

Metatarsalgia complications

If you leave the metatarsalgia untreated, then it can cause pain in other areas of the same or opposite foot and pain elsewhere in the body, such as hip or low back, due to the limping (altered gait) from foot pain.


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