What is the pain in the ball of my foot?

It is quite common to feel pain and inflammation around the balls of the feet. Podiatrists refer to these symptoms as Metatarsalgia, although this is not a condition in itself.
The balls of the feet are the slightly padded areas under the foot just further down from the toes.  This area contains a number of structures that can develop symptoms.

There is a lot of pressure applied to these areas during activity, such as when walking or running. This does make the tissues and bones in these areas prone to possible injury or strain.

Causes of pain in the balls of the foot

The main causes of pain in this area of the foot include:

  • Injury to the bone – fractures (complete or stress fractures), and bone bruising.
  • Bursitis – inflammation of a fluid filled sac near the joint. 
  • Morton’s Neuroma – this is thickened nerve issue often present in between the third and fourth toes. If this is the cause you may also experience tingling or numbness to the adjacent toes.
  • Genetic predisposition for foot injury

Diagnosing pain in the ball of the foot

If the pain is mild or moderate and there is no swelling or bruising, it may be best to wait a few days prior to seeing a specialist to see if the symptoms resolve on their own. However, you should see a podiatrist if:

  • The foot pain is severe
  • There is swelling and discoloration
  • The pain does not go within two weeks
  • You are diabetic

Depending on your particular case, your podiatrist may take a number of actions to diagnose the condition, including:

  • A physical examination of the affected foot
  • Questions about your lifestyle and recent physical activities
  • If they suspect a break or severe injury, your Podiatrist may request medical imaging, such as an X-ray, ultrasound or MRI

Resolving metatarsalgia

There are several general steps that can be taken to resolve metatarsalgia, including:

  • Rest the foot and periodically ice the area
  • Use of orthotic inserts in the shoes; this can be helpful to offload areas or if your foot shape is causing the issue
  • Therapeutic injections to the area to reduce inflammation
  • Exercise and stretching; light non-weight bearing exercises can alleviate pain and promote healing
  • In the long term it may helpful to maintain a healthy body weight to prevent the issue from recurring

Find out more about metatarsalgia

If you would like to find out more or book an appointment with our podiatrist, Mr. Steven Thomas, please do get in touch:

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