Causes & Symptoms of Metatarsalgia

Humpback whales are majestic creatures. Known for the tell-tale arching of their back as they dive down into the water, these whales can weigh 30 to 50 tons. You probably can’t imagine hauling one or two of these on your back while you run. However, your feet absorb more than twice that amount—110 tons of cumulative force—for every mile that you run. This makes it pretty likely that you may encounter metatarsalgia at least once in your life.

Pain You Can’t “Sea,” But You Can Feel

One thing to get straight is that this is not a disease. In fact, it simply stands for inflammation, pain, and—in some cases—bruising on the ball of the foot. The discomfort occurs in the metatarsal bones, which are the bones that run from your arches to your toes. More specifically, these symptoms are commonly felt where the metatarsal bones meet the toe bones, a joint called the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint.

Extra Stress is Largely the Cause

Your foot absorbs a lot of shock, especially during high-impact activities. Your toes and the ball of your foot, in particular, carry the brunt of that shock when they push off to take the next step. Sometimes, the small nerve that runs along the MTP joint can become trapped when the bones push together, which causes inflammation.

Anything that puts extra pressure on your feet is going to make you more at risk for developing metatarsalgia. Obesity can especially put extra stress on the bones in your feet. As you age, this can become more of a problem because the natural padding on your soles tends to wear out too.

A structural foot deformity, like flat feet or high arches, places an uneven amount of pressure on certain parts of your foot. You’re also more at risk if your second toe is longer than the big toe. Pain in the forefront of the foot can also be the result of shifting your weight to accommodate an injury like a stress fracture.

You can bruise the bottom of your foot suddenly while running or jumping, too. For instance, if you sprint in worn-out shoes, walk on hard concrete, or run barefoot on hard-packed sand.

When this problem develops more gradually, it could be the result of a medical issue like bunions. Arthritis is another condition that can attack the MTP joints, causing them to swell. A Morton’s neuroma is yet another possible cause of your symptoms.

When Your Pain Breaches the Surface

The best way to describe one aspect of the pain is the feeling like you’re walking on a pebble that’s stuck in your shoe. Some experience a burning sensation, while others have shooting pain, numbness, and tingling in the ball of their foot. The symptoms will usually feel worse when you’re walking and moving around, especially when you’re barefoot or on hard surfaces. When you finally sit down, you might have might have some aching, but will often feel relief.

Treatment to Make You Sing

Since there are many symptoms, there are many possible causes. You can trust that we’ll diagnose your condition promptly so you can get the best treatment. The initial recommendation for this pain is ice, elevation, and rest. We may advise that you consider taking oral anti-inflammatory medications. Also, make sure you’re stretching the foot and trying more low-impact activities like swimming or riding your bike.

Prevent the Pain from Swimming Deeper

Shoes can often be the culprit of this discomfort. High heels and improperly fitting footwear tend to put a lot of pressure on the forefoot. You can prevent this pain at the base of your toes by making sure you have good fitting shoes with arch supports to cushion the shock of your step.

Metatarsalgia may cover just a tiny area of your foot, but it creates a whopping amount of pain. Let Sierra Foot & Ankle help you walk again without discomfort. Our office in Carson City, Nevada can be reached at (775) 783-8037. You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest! With our help, you’ll be diving back into activities in no time!