Skip to main content

Pain in the ball of the foot

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:

Do

  • 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
  • take paracetamol

Don’t

  • 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

How to do stretching exercises for pain in the ball of your foot

Media last reviewed: 17 April 2019
Media review due: 17 April 2022

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 can’t 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 doesn’t stop you doing things like going to work
Information:

Coronavirus update: how to contact a GP

It's still important to get help from a GP if you need it. To contact your GP surgery:

  • visit their website
  • use the NHS App
  • call them

Find out about using the NHS during coronavirus

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.

Symptoms Possible cause
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
Information:

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