What is it?

This literally means ‘pain in the metatarsals of the foot’ or ‘forefoot pain’ (ball of the foot pain).

Some people describe this pain like walking on pebbles or having a stone in their shoe, however others describe it as a burning pain.  This is sometimes felt on just a couple of the bones but can be distributed across the whole area.

Accompanying hard skin (callous) is often the case, together with swelling and when extra weight is applied, the pain can worsen.  This may also be felt, at rest, for example in bed at night.

What causes Metatarsalgia

Metatarsalgia can occur for a number of reasons and your foot practitioner or chiropodist/podiatrist would be able to assess which one applies to you.  More often than not, the problem lies within the mechanics of the foot and the way the body weight is distributed e.g.

  • Bunions (hallux valgus)
  • Arthritis in the big toe (hallux rigidus)
  • Overuse injuries e.g. sport
  • Overweight
  • Inflammation of the foot e.g. gout
  • Issues with the bones, e.g. fractures or stress preceding a fracture

Problems with the nerve supply e.g. nerves supplying sensation to the toes can become squeezed and irritated resulting in scarring of the nerve, giving pain to the forefoot.  The most common nerve problem is Morton’s Neuroma – there is often a burning or numb sensation in the toes.

Various accessories are available to relieve metatarsalgia, such as gel pads, however assessing the cause of the problem is a much better long term solution than treating the symptoms alone.