Pain in the ball of your foot is known as metatarsalgia. You can usually ease the pain yourself. But see a GP if it does not improve.
How you can ease pain in the ball of your foot yourself
If you see a GP, they'll usually suggest you try these things:
rest and raise your foot when you can
put an ice pack (or bag of frozen peas) in a towel on the painful area for up to 20 minutes every 2 to 3 hours
wear wide comfortable shoes with a low heel and soft sole
use soft insoles or pads you put in your shoes
try to lose weight if you're overweight
try regular gentle stretching exercises
do not take ibuprofen for the first 48 hours after an injury
do not walk or stand for long periods
do not wear high heels or tight pointy shoes
Video: exercises to reduce pain in the ball of the foot
This video demonstrates exercises that can help reduce pain in the ball of the foot.
Media review due: 17 April 2022
See exercise video safety information
This exercise video is suitable for most people, but is not tailored to any specific condition, characteristic or person.
Get advice from a GP or health professional before trying it, especially if:
- you have any concerns about your health
- you are not sure if the exercises are suitable
- you have any pre-existing health problems or injuries, or any current symptoms
Stop the exercise immediately and get medical help if you feel any pain or feel unwell.
You can ask a pharmacist about:
- the best painkiller to take
- insoles and pads for your shoes
- treatments for common skin problems
- if you need to see a GP
Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:
- the pain is severe or stopping you doing normal activities
- the pain is getting worse or keeps coming back
- the pain has not improved after treating it at home for 2 weeks
- you have any tingling or loss of sensation in your foot
- you have diabetes – foot problems can be more serious if you have diabetes
What we mean by severe pain
- Severe pain:
- always there and so bad it's hard to think or talk
- you cannot sleep
- it's very hard to move, get out of bed, go to the bathroom, wash or dress
- Moderate pain:
- always there
- makes it hard to concentrate or sleep
- you can manage to get up, wash or dress
- Mild pain:
- comes and goes
- is annoying but does not stop you doing things like going to work
Common causes of pain in the ball of your foot
Pain in the ball of your foot is often caused by exercising too much or wearing shoes that are too tight.
Some people also have a foot shape that puts extra pressure on the ball of the foot – for example, if you have small curled-up toes (hammer toes) or high arches.
Your symptoms might also give you an idea of what's causing your pain.
|Pain, swelling, bruising, started after intense or repetitive exercise||sprained metatarsal|
|Sharp, burning or shooting pain near your toes (ball of your foot), feels like a lump or small stone under your foot||Morton's neuroma|
|Redness and swelling, dull aching pain||bursitis or arthritis|
|Hard bony lump near the big toe||bunions|
Do not worry if you're not sure what the problem is.
Follow the advice on this page and see a GP if the pain does not get better in 2 weeks.
You can also read about pain in other areas of your foot.
Page last reviewed: 1 April 2019
Next review due: 1 April 2022