Metatarsalgia Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Prevent excruciating Metatarsalgia foot pain from robbing you of mobility and the ability to be active. Knowing how to treat metatarsalgia and properly support your foot will help you get back to walking pain-free.

Metatarsalgia diagnosis and treatment often depend on xray images gathered the following information about the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of metatarsalgia.

What Is Metatarsalgia?

Named for the five metatarsal bones in the midsection of your feet connecting to the toes, metatarsalgia (met-uh-tahr-SAL-juh) is a common overuse condition affecting either or both feet in which the ball of your foot (the area between the arches and toes) becomes inflamed and painful.

What Causes Metatarsalgia?

You might develop this condition if you participate in intense athletic activities involving running and jumping. Metatarsalgia can also result from any or a combination of the following conditions:

Foot Deformities – Wearing shoes or heels that force your feet into awkward or unnatural positions.

Arthritis – Inflammatory arthritis like rheumatoid arthritis or gout can cause you to develop metatarsalgia.

Injuries – Any injury causing you to change your gait or shift your weight on either or both feet for a prolonged time.

Impacts – Impacts that cause bruising or swelling in the foot, particularly near the metatarsal bones.

Stress Fractures – Small breaks in the metatarsal or toe bones can severely alter how you apply weight to your feet.

Misalignment of One or More Toes – Can cause friction and irritation to the metatarsal bones.

Poorly Fitting Shoes – High heel shoes pose a challenge for the feet as they transfer extra weight to the front of the foot. Tight dress shoes (especially those with a narrow toe box) or athletic shoes without sufficient support or padding can quickly exacerbate this condition.

Metatarsalgia can be caused from poorly sized or shaped shoes or exercises

Excess Weight – Carrying extra weight means more pressure on your metatarsal bones when you move. Weight loss can minimize, if not eliminate, your metatarsalgia symptoms.

Morton’s Neuroma – This condition is the growth of fibrous tissue around a nerve, typically occurring between the third and fourth metatarsal heads; symptoms may feel strikingly similar to metatarsalgia but contribute to metatarsal stress/pressure.

What Are The Symptoms of Metatarsalgia?

Symptoms of Metatarsalgia are typically localized in or around the ball of your foot (the part of the sole behind the toes) and can include:

  • Aching or burning pain in the ball of the foot
  • Sharp or shooting pain in your toes
  • Numbness or tingling sensations in your toes
  • Pain that intensifies when walking, running, or exercising – and eases when resting
  • Constant sensation of having a pebble under your foot – in your shoe

Note: The principal symptom associated with metatarsalgia is a sharp, dull, or burning pain at the end of one or more of the metatarsal bones. metatarsalgia is not usually a “sudden pain.” Rather a buildup over several months.

Metatarsalgia can cause an accumulating pain over time

How Is Metatarsalgia Diagnosed?

Many foot injuries, disorders, and pain can resemble the symptoms of metatarsalgia. If your pain continues after resting your feet and/or changing your footwear, it’s time to see your doctor. To help diagnose what is happening in your foot, your doctor may:

  • Physically examine your foot
  • Ask you to walk (to observe your gait)
  • Ask you questions about your activities and when the pain started
  • Take X-rays to rule out stress fractures
  • Take an ultrasound to identify bursitis, neuromas, and other soft tissue problems
  • Perform an MRI looking for signs of arthritis or other injuries
  • Take blood, testing for uric acid

Many tests are taken or performed to identify contributors to metatarsalgia or rule out other conditions, allowing your doctor to accurately prescribe treatments.

When attempting to diagnose your condition, you may be referred from your primary care physician or general practitioner to a bone specialist (orthopedist) or a foot specialist (podiatrist).

How Is Metatarsalgia Treated?

Metatarsalgia treatment is typically determined by the cause and severity of the condition and your pain. Many times, treatment for mild to moderate symptoms will include conservative measures like:

  • Staying off/Resting your feet
  • Changing your footwear
  • Use an orthotic sole insert
  • Use an arch support

When these measures fail to relieve your discomfort or pain, the following may ease your pain:

  • Ice your foot for 20 minutes multiple times per day
  • If you are overweight, lose weight
  • Use an over-the-counter pain reliever/anti-inflammatory (discuss the benefits and potential side-effects with your doctor before taking any medication)
  • Elevate your foot (above your waist) after activity

You may need to modify some of your activities like:

  • Avoid wearing shoes with high-heels
  • Take a break from high-impact sports
  • Change your exercise routine to exclude high-impact activities and include low-impact activities like swimming and cycling
  • Carve out the time for frequent relaxing spa days

Tip: A reflexology massage may relieve foot pain and discomfort, as it focuses on the foot’s pressure points.

Metatarsalgia can be helped with treatments including physical therapy and reflexology massage

When these measures fall short of relieving your pain, your doctor may recommend the following:

  • Work with a physical therapist who can give you a regimen of range-of-motion exercises and exercises to strengthen surrounding foot muscles. The therapist can also help you correct your gait.
  • Work with an occupational therapist who may fit you with customized orthotics, like a metatarsal pad or arch support.

When conservative treatment measures fail, your doctor may recommend surgery to realign your metatarsal bones.

Note: Leaving this condition untreated may result in your altering your gait. Such an alteration in your gait, even in the slightest, may lead to hip, leg, and lower back problems.

Treating Metatarsalgia

In this article, you discovered information about the many causes, symptoms, how to diagnose, and treatment options of metatarsalgia.

Taking action to diagnose and treat your metatarsalgia will help you recover your wellbeing and pain-free mobility.

Ignoring metatarsalgia can quickly lead to problems in your legs, hips, and lower back, resulting in astronomical medical fees when compared to getting the original problem addressed.


Foot Palace Massage Spa Athens

196 Alps Rd Ste 31Athens,  GA 30606
(706) 521-5290

Foot Palace Massage Spa Braselton

2095 Highway 211 NW Suite 7BBraseltonGA 30517
(678) 963-5958