What’s Causing My Ball of Foot Pain?

Ball of Foot Pain

If you want to locate the ball of your foot, lift up your heel while you’re barefoot. The part of the foot that’s in most direct contact with the ground is the ball of your foot.

When your heel is elevated, the ball of your foot bears all your weight. If any of your regular activities include running, jumping, dancing, or merely a lot of walking, the ball of your foot endures enormous pressure.

Stress is the mother of foot pain

All that propulsive force being channeled through the ball of the foot causes major stress, and stress is the mother of foot trauma. Here’s a look at some common conditions that cause pain in the ball of your foot.

What is metatarsalgia?

The suffix “algia” means pain, so metatarsalgia references painful conditions in the ball of the foot, where the long metatarsal bones of the midfoot connect to your toes.

The primary symptom of metatarsalgia is pain. Sharp, aching, or burning pain in the ball of your foot. Pain like you’re constantly walking on a sharp-edged pebble. The pain increases when you flex your feet by standing, walking, running, or jumping.

Other sources of metatarsalgia

  • Abnormal foot shapes, such as high arches or a second toe that is longer than the big toe, can exert painful pressure on the metatarsals.
  • A toe that curls under (hammertoe) or a bunion (a swollen, painful protrusion at the base of your big toe) are other sources of metatarsalgia.
  • High heels keep the heels permanently raised and tilt the body forward. This anatomical adjustment takes all the body’s weight off a person’s artificially elevated heels. When the heels aren’t bearing any weight, all that gravitational force is channeled through the ball of the foot. High heels are a leading cause of metatarsalgia.
  • Both forms of arthritis (rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis) can cause pain in the ball of the foot.
  • Extra weight is another source of inordinate and painful pressure on the balls of the feet.

Prevention and treatment of metatarsalgia

Prevention of metatarsalgia includes wearing shoes with adequate amounts of forefoot padding. Metatarsal pad inserts and shock absorbing arch supports can also be helpful.

Treatment of overuse metatarsalgia includes rest and over-the-counter pain and anti-inflammatory meds, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen.

When conservative methods are ineffective, surgical intervention can correct the foot deformities that cause metatarsalgia.

What is a plantar plate tear?

The plantar plate is a strong ligament that helps attach each toe to its corresponding metatarsal bone. It stabilizes the toes, and it also provides a forward attachment point for the plantar fascia.

The same high-pressure risks that lead to other forms of metatarsalgia can cause tears in the plantar plate. These injuries can occur from sudden trauma or more slowly, as repetitive pressures are applied over time.

Plantar plate tear symptoms

When the plantar plate injury results from continual overuse, such as in dedicated runners or competitive dancers, the affected toe (usually the second or third toe) will begin to shift away from its normal position.

Plantar plate injury can affect different toes and cause movement in different directions. The most common configuration of a plantar plate injury is the second toe moving towards the big toe.

Plantar plate tear treatment

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is the most reliable method to reveal the condition of a plantar plate.

When the plantar plate tear is a result of overuse, the initial treatment consists of rest, icing, anti-inflammatory medications, plantar flexion strapping of the toe, and padding.

In more acute cases a boot may be prescribed to take the weight off the ball of the foot. Supportive orthotics may also be prescribed.

What is Morton’s neuroma?

Another cause of pain in the ball of the foot is a thickening and inflammation of the nerve tissue between two metatarsal bones (usually between the metatarsals connected to the second and third toes).

Like most other forms of metatarsalgia, Morton’s neuroma is usually caused by either sudden trauma or repetitive pressure exerted upon the ball the foot. In Morton’s neuroma, the pressure compresses, inflames, and swells nerve tissue, rather than muscle, tendons, or ligaments.

When surgery for the ball of foot pain is the best choice

In most cases, the most effective long-term remedy for intractable metatarsalgia is to simply cease the activity that’s causing it.

But many people refuse to quit. Participation in activities like dancing, and sports that involve running and jumping, can be extremely important to an individual’s healthy enjoyment of life. Many of our patients do not see withdrawing from physical activity as a viable option.

We understand, support, and applaud our patients’ determination to continue living life at the fullest. Fortunately, surgical remedies that can provide a return to full activity are available at UFAI for even the most severe forms of metatarsalgia.

Why UFAI is the best choice for treatment of metatarsalgia

After years of practical research and advanced studies, we continue to pioneer the best diagnostic, conservative, and surgical remedies for metatarsalgia available anywhere. Our physicians have many decades of cumulative experience, and the highest success rates in the nation. We are leaders in the research and treatment of all foot and ankle conditions.

For more information or to schedule a consultation, please call (877) 736-6001 or visit us at www.footankleinstitute.com.

Dr. Justin Franson, DPM

Dr. Justin Franson, DPM

After studying accounting and then leaning toward a physical therapy at Brigham Young University, Dr. Franson decided to pursue podiatry as his career. He then attended the School College of Podiatric Medicine in Chicago.

Upon graduation in 2001, Franson accepted a three-year residency program at the Greater Los Angeles VA and UCLA County Hospital.

Dr. Franson specializes in several areas including total ankle replacement and sports medicine.
Dr. Justin Franson, DPM

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