Causes and Treatment Options for Pain in the Ball of Your Foot

Posted on: 23 March 2015


Metatarsalgia is the term used to describe pain in the ball of your foot, which can be caused by a number of conditions. The pain is generally worse when you walk or stand and it can feel like you have stones in your shoe or present as a more general ache across the ball of your foot. The pain often develops gradually and can leave your foot feeling tender.

Treatment depends on the cause of the pain, so here's an overview of common causes and treatment options:


Metatarsalgia can be caused by any of the following conditions:

  • Morton's neuroma—This condition affects the nerve tissue between your third and fourth metatarsal bones, which are the small bones on the top of your feet. It can result from wearing badly-fitting shoes, which can put too much stress on your feet and can cause pain that travels down into the balls of your feet.
  • Joint stress—Runners and those who play sports that involve jumping can put too much stress on the joints of their feet, which can lead to inflammation and pain.
  • High-heeled shoes—Wearing high-heeled shoes can alter the distribution of weight across your feet and put too much pressure on the balls of your feet.
  • Stiff Achilles tendon—This can reduce your foot's flexibility and result in an uneven distribution of weight across the sole of your foot, putting too much pressure on the front of your foot.
  • Being overweight—Increased weight puts extra stress on your feet.
  • Diabetes—Peripheral neuropathy can occur in those with diabetes and this can lead to nerve damage in your feet.
  • Arthritis—Arthritis can cause inflammation and pain in the big toe and joints around the ball of your foot.

Treatment Options

When you podiatrist has diagnosed your foot pain as metatarsalgia they will formulate a treatment plan based on the suspected cause of your pain. They may refer you to a dietician if you need to lose weight, give you advice on choosing shoes that fit well, refer you to your diabetes nurse, or advise you to take some time to rest your foot and have a break from strenuous activities.

If the pain is being caused by a stiff Achilles tendon, your podiatrist may give you some gentle exercises to do at home that will relieve the tension. Metatarsalgia caused by joint stress, a stiff Achilles tendon or Morton's neuroma can also be relieved with custom-made orthotic insoles. Your podiatrist will measure your feet and write a prescription for insoles that will alter the alignment of your feet and distribute your weight in a way that relieves the pressure on the balls of your feet.

If you're experiencing severe pain, you may be able to take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory painkillers, but you should get your doctor's approval before taking any new medication.

If you start to experience pain in the ball of your foot, even if it's only occasionally, schedule an appointment with a clinic such as Tim Pain Podiatry for a thorough examination as prompt treatment can reduce the time it takes for your foot to heal.