Patient Education

To help you understand and navigate through your orthopedic health decisions, we have created a patient education section. Please select from one of the categories below to learn more about your condition or procedure.

Metatarsalgia is a condition characterized by pain and inflammation in the ball of the foot, often affecting the area where the metatarsal bones are located. This condition is common among athletes who engage in high-impact sports, but it can also affect non-athletes.

Common Symptoms

  • Sharp, Aching, or Burning Pain: Pain in the ball of the foot, often worsened by standing, walking, or running.
  • Pain that Worsens with Activity: Increased pain during activities that involve the forefoot.
  • Numbness or Tingling: Sensation of numbness or tingling in the toes.
  • Feeling of a Pebble in the Shoe: Sensation similar to having a small stone inside the shoe or sock.
  • Swelling: Mild swelling and inflammation in the affected area.

Cause & Anatomy

  • Overuse: Repetitive stress on the foot from activities such as running, jumping, or dancing.
  • Foot Deformities: Conditions such as hammertoes, bunions, or high arches that alter the distribution of weight on the foot.
  • Improper Footwear: Shoes that do not provide adequate support, cushioning, or fit poorly.
  • Excess Weight: Increased pressure on the metatarsal bones from carrying extra weight.
  • Age: Loss of the fat pad under the ball of the foot as part of the aging process.
  • High-Impact Sports: Sports that place significant stress on the forefoot, such as running or basketball.


  • Medical History and Physical Examination: Assessment of symptoms and examination of the foot to identify pain points and potential deformities.
  • X-rays: To rule out fractures and identify any bone abnormalities.
  • MRI or Ultrasound: In some cases, to assess soft tissue structures and detect any underlying issues.


Proper Footwear:

  • Wear shoes that fit well and provide adequate support and cushioning.

Gradual Increase in Activity:

  • Gradually increase the intensity and duration of physical activities to avoid overloading the foot.

Maintain a Healthy Weight:

  • Keeping a healthy weight reduces stress on the metatarsal bones.

Regular Foot Care:

  • Inspect and care for your feet regularly, especially if you have foot deformities or conditions that increase your risk.

Non-Surgical Treatment


  • Avoid activities that exacerbate the pain to allow the inflammation to subside.


  • Apply ice packs to the affected area for 15-20 minutes several times a day to reduce swelling and pain.

Footwear Modifications:

  • Choose shoes with a wide toe box, good arch support, and cushioning.
  • Use metatarsal pads or orthotic inserts to redistribute pressure and provide additional support.


  • Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, to manage pain and inflammation.

Physical Therapy:

  • Stretching and strengthening exercises for the foot and lower leg muscles.
  • Techniques to improve gait and reduce stress on the metatarsal bones.


Rarely needed, but may be considered if conservative treatments fail. Surgical options include realigning metatarsal bones or removing a neuroma (if present).


Gradual Return to Activity:

  • Slowly reintroduce activities as pain allows, ensuring to avoid high-impact sports until fully recovered.

Strengthening and Flexibility Exercises:

  • Engage in exercises to improve the strength and flexibility of the foot and lower leg muscles.


How long does it take for metatarsalgia to heal?
With proper treatment, metatarsalgia can improve in a few weeks to a few months. Recovery time depends on the severity of the condition and adherence to treatment.

Can I continue to exercise with metatarsalgia?
It’s important to rest and avoid activities that worsen the pain. Low-impact exercises, such as swimming or cycling, may be suitable alternatives.

Are there home remedies for metatarsalgia?
In addition to rest and ice, wearing appropriate shoes and using metatarsal pads can help manage symptoms at home.

Is metatarsalgia the same as a stress fracture?
No, metatarsalgia involves inflammation and pain in the ball of the foot, while a stress fracture is a small crack in the bone. Both conditions can cause similar symptoms but have different underlying causes and treatments.

Can metatarsalgia become chronic?
If not properly treated, metatarsalgia can lead to chronic pain and discomfort. Adhering to recommended treatments and preventive measures can help prevent long-term issues.

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