Understanding Pain In The Ball Of Your Foot

Pain in the ball of your foot, known as metatarsalgia, often develops gradually and can feel more intense when you put pressure on your foot. The pain may feel like a dull ache or it may feel sharp and be restricted to a specific area on the ball of your foot. In addition to pain, you may experience localised swelling. Here's an overview of the causes and treatment options:


Pain in the ball of your foot can be caused by the following:

  • Joint stress - Repeatedly landing hard on your feet, such as when playing high-impact sports, can cause stress, which can lead to the swelling of joints in your feet.
  • High-heeled shoes - Heeled shoes force the front of your feet to support more of your weight than they're designed to. This puts too much stress on the balls of your feet.
  • Arthritis - When arthritis causes the joints in the front of your feet to become inflamed, you will experience pain when you walk or put any type of pressure on your feet.
  • Morton's neuroma - Badly fitting shoes can cause damage to the nerve tissue between the tiny bones that run along the top of your feet. The pain caused by this condition, known as Morton's neuroma, can travel into the balls of your feet.
  • Diabetes - Diabetics are at an increased risk of developing peripheral neuropathy, which is a condition that damages the peripheral nerves. This can cause stabbing or burning pain in the front of the foot.
  • Stiff Achilles tendon - A poor exercise technique, footwear that doesn't provide adequate support and fallen arches can all cause a stiff Achilles tendon. This condition causes your weight to be unevenly distributed across your feet, with too much pressure on the balls of your feet.

Diagnosis And Treatment

Your podiatrist will diagnose your foot pain by taking a detailed account of your health history and symptoms. They will examine your feet and formulate a treatment plan based on the identified cause of your pain. Treatment may include the following:

  • Rest - Resting your foot will encourage the swelling to come down and allow increased blood flow into the front of your foot, which will promote healing. Take a break from high-impact exercise and wear flat shoes at least until your foot has healed.
  • Medication - Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or steroid injections may be suggested if the pain and swelling is severe or if your pain is caused by arthritis or peripheral neuropathy. This type of medication isn't suitable for those with certain health conditions such as bowel disease or those who are pregnant, so speak to your GP before taking any over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs.
  • Exercises - Your podiatrist can show you how to do gentle exercises at home that can relieve tension in the ball of your foot. Exercises are particularly useful for those with a stiff Achilles tendon.
  • Orthotic insoles - Wearing custom-made orthotic insoles can relieve pressure on the balls of your feet by altering how your weight is distributed across your feet. They move your feet into the correct alignment and provide extra support.

Foot conditions tend to worsen if left untreated, as your feet are under constant pressure from your normal daily activities. If you have pain in the ball of your foot, book a foot exam with your podiatrist as soon as possible. For more information, contact a business such as Walk Without Pain.