Metatarsalgia 

Introduction 

Video: foot care

A podiatrist talks about the importance of caring for your feet and explains some of the most common foot problems and treatments.

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Can metatarsalgia be prevented?

In most cases, the answer is yes.

Wearing appropriate shoes for the types of activities you regularly do can help. For example, if your job requires you to stand for long periods of time, then wearing high heels is not a good idea.

Similarly, if you are taking up running, then buying a proper pair of running shoes is essential. Read more about choosing sports shoes and trainers.

If you have had previous episodes of metatarsalgia in the past, buying insoles to support your feet may help prevent symptoms reoccurring.

Finally, achieving and then maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce pressure on your feet.

Read more about how to lose weight safely.

Metatarsalgia is a type of pain that occurs in the ball of the foot, also called the metatarsal region.

The pain can range from mild to severe and often gets worse when you stand or move. It is sometimes described as a burning or aching sensation and you may have shooting pains, tingling or numbness in your toes. Some people also experience a sensation that feels like walking on pebbles.

The pain often occurs in the area where the second, third and fourth toes meet the ball of the foot.

Read more about the symptoms of metatarsalgia.

Treatment

Most cases of metatarsalgia can be treated using self-care techniques such as:

  • RICE – this means rest, applying an ice pack, using a bandage to compress your foot and elevating the foot
  • taking painkillers called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, to relieve pain
  • using shock-absorbing insoles, which can be fitted inside your shoes to help cushion the pressure when walking – these are available from pharmacies as well as sports shops (runners often use insoles to protect their feet)

Most cases of metatarsalgia respond well to self-care treatment. In rare cases, orthotic supports or surgery may be required to repair underlying damage to the foot.

Read about treating metatarsalgia.

What causes metatarsalgia?

Metatarsalgia occurs when something damages the long bones in the foot which connect the ankle bones to the bones of the toes. These are known as metatarsals.

Common reasons why these bones can become damaged include:

  • wearing poorly fitting shoes
  • being overweight or obese (very overweight with a body mass index of 30 or above)
  • high-intensity exercise such as running, tennis or squash

Read about the causes of metatarsalgia.




Page last reviewed: 30/04/2012

Next review due: 30/04/2014

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Foot health

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