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.
Most cases of metatarsalgia can be treated using:
- taking painkillers called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), to relieve pain
- anti-inflammatory injection
- shockwave therapy
Most cases of metatarsalgia respond well to conservative treatment. In rare cases, surgery may be required to repair underlying damage to the foot.
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
- high-intensity exercise such as running, tennis or squash
- stress fractures in the foot
When to seek medical advice
If the pain doesn’t improve with RICE, see a doctor.