Skip to content

Information and Resources

Metatarsalgia

Font Size
A
A
A

INTRODUCTION

Background

Metatarsalgia is a common overuse injury. The term describes pain and inflammation in the ball of the foot. It is often thought of as a symptom of other conditions, rather than as a specific disease.

Frequency

In the U.S., forefoot injuries, including metatarsalgia, are common in athletes who participate in high-impact sports.

Recommended Related to Skin Problems & Treatments

Understanding Corns and Calluses -- Prevention

  Here are some suggestions for preventing corns and calluses: To avoid corns and calluses on the feet, have both feet professionally measured and buy only properly fitting shoes. Shop for shoes at the end of the day when feet are typically most swollen. Be sure both shoe width and length are correct -- for each foot since feet may be slightly different sizes. Allow up to a half-inch between your longest toe and the front of the shoe. If you can't wiggle your toes in your shoes, they're...

Read the Understanding Corns and Calluses -- Prevention article > >

Athletes who take part in high-impact sports involving running or jumping are at high risk of forefoot injury. While track and field runners are exposed to the highest level of traumatic forces to the forefoot, many other athletes, including tennis, football, baseball, and soccer players, often have forefoot injuries.

 

SYMPTOMS AND CAUSES

The primary symptom of metatarsalgia is pain at the end of one or more of the metatarsal bones. The pain is typically aggravated when walking or running. Athletes who participate in high-impact activities and may also have an inflammatory condition such as bursitis often have diffuse forefoot and midfoot pain.

Most often, the pain comes on over a period of several months, rather than suddenly.

A condition known as Morton's neuroma (interdigital neuroma) produces symptoms of metatarsalgia due to irritation and inflammation of a nerve at the site of pain. People with Morton's neuroma may experience toe numbness in addition to pain in the forefoot.

Causes

The foot can be injured during sports activities. As with many other overuse injuries, the condition may be the result of an alteration in normal biomechanics that has caused an abnormal weight distribution.

Persistent stress can lead to chronic irritation and inflammation of the bone covering and adjacent tissues, such as ligaments and tendons.

The following factors can contribute to excessive localized pressure over the forefoot:

  • High level of activity
  • Prominent metatarsal heads
  • Tight toe extensors (muscles)
  • Weak toe flexors (muscles)
  • Hammertoe deformity
  • Hypermobile first foot bone
  • Tight Achilles tendon
  • Excessive pronation (side-to-side movement of the foot when walking or running)
  • Ill-fitting footwear

Some anatomical conditions may predispose individuals to forefoot problems. They include:

  • A high arch
  • A short first metatarsal bone often seen in people with a Morton toe; the normal forefoot balance is disturbed, resulting in the shift of an increased amount of weight to the second metatarsal.
  • Hammertoe deformity

Any or all of the above musculoskeletal problems may contribute to forefoot trauma in athletes.

1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Hot Topics

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Popular Slideshows & Tools on WebMD

feet
Solutions for 19 types.
MS Overview
Recognizing symptoms.
pregnancy test and calendar
Helping you get pregnant.
build a better butt
How to build a better butt.
lone star tick
How to identify that bite.
woman standing behind curtains
How it affects you.
brain scan with soda
Tips to avoid complications.
row of colored highlighter pens
Tips for living better.
psoriasis
How to keep flares at bay.
woman dreaming
What Do Your Dreams Say About You?
spinal compression fracture
Treatment options.

Pollen counts, treatment tips, and more.

It's nothing to sneeze at.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Thanks!

Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

Women's Health Newsletter

Find out what women really need.