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Family Foot Care & Surgery, LLC

Metatarsalgia: Burning, Aching Forefoot

If every step you took was painful, would you continue walking? You might put up with it at first, but eventually the discomfort would bother you enough that you would probably try to find other ways of getting around—or avoid walking altogether. That loss of mobility and independence is the risk of allowing a problem like metatarsalgia to go unmanaged.

Defining the Problem

The ball of the foot is made up of the area where your toes meet your metatarsal bones. It includes all the supporting tissues, the natural fatty padding, and bones that you use to push off the ground when you take a step. This condition describes any pain and irritation in the general ball of the foot area, so it can encompass other more specific conditions.

The problem is marked by sharp, burning, aches and pains in the ball of your foot. The pain increases when you stand or otherwise put pressure on the forefoot, then decreases when you rest. The discomfort could be spread out underneath all the smaller toes, or localized under one metatarsal head in particular. Sometimes the pain feels more like standing on a stone or a pebble. You may notice numbness or tingling in your toes as well.

Recognizing the Culprit

Usually the issue is an overuse problem, so the symptoms develop slowly over time. Athletes and those who subject their feet to frequent hard impacts have the highest risk of developing this condition. Your foot shape can contribute to the condition as well—high arches and uneven metatarsal heads do not manage your body weight and pressure evenly. Poorly fitted footwear or shoes designed to shift your weight forward, like high heels, may contribute to your discomfort. Obesity, age, and biomechanical issues can all increase your odds of ball of the foot pain as well.

Resolving the Issue Conservatively

Since the condition is usually an overuse injury, you will need to seek out treatment to restore your comfort. Allowing the problem to progress could hamper your ability to walk, since putting pressure on the forefoot will feel worse and worse. Dr. Sanjay Patel will need to evaluate your foot to diagnose the source of your metatarsalgia. That will allow our dedicated staff to build an accurate treatment plan to help you recover.

Some methods for relieving the pain will vary depending on the underlying factors impacting your condition, but rest is usually one of the most important steps for eliminating the discomfort. Take a break from sports or any other hard-impact activities. You also need to decrease the pressure and irritation in the affected tissues. Use pads or orthotics to help your forefoot better absorb shock and strain. Ice the ball of the foot regularly as well. We may also recommend anti-inflammatory pain medication for you to take.

You may need to change your footwear as well. Avoid narrow shoes or models that shift weight forward onto the metatarsal heads. Limit the time you spend in footwear with thin soles and little or no arch support, too. You may need custom orthotics to help add the layer of protection you need from your shoes, especially if you have a biomechanical issue that needs correcting.

Metatarsalgia is an uncomfortable condition that can impact your mobility if you let it. A little care and foot protection, though, can go a long way in relieving your discomfort and allowing you to continue your activities. If you’re feet hurt, don’t put off seeking care. Contact Dr. Sanjay Patel here at Family Foot Care & Surgery, L.L.C. in Milford and Hamden, CT, for an appointment. Use the online request form or call to reach us: (203) 876-7736 for the Milford office or (203) 288-4055 for the Hamden location.

Dr. Sanjay V. Patel
Dr. Patel has over 20 years of experience in the field of podiatric medicine and podiatric surgery.