Foot Facts -- Metatarsalgia
Why is the ball of my foot sore?
Metatarsalgia is a general term used to describe a painful condition in the area of the ball-of-the-foot.
Metatarsalgia is often caused by improperly fitting footwear such as:
- High-heeled shoes
- Shoes with restrictive, narrow toe box
- Poorly padded shoes, like work boots
- Sandals or shoes with flat insoles (little or no arch support)
Gaining relief from Metatarsalgia begins with wearing footwear with metatarsal arch support. For rapid relief we suggest the Kenkoh Massage Sandal which is a therapeutic device with decades of demonstrated success. Wearing these sandals first thing in the morning and in the evening will increase blood flow, support your metatarsal arch and begin the healing process.
To continue the healing process, wear footwear with substantial support at all times. In general, all styles from Birkenstock, Finn Comfort, Birki’s, Alpro, Footprints, Papillio, most Tatami, and Mephisto's Helen and Hannel styles have exceptional metatarsal arch support.
The Mechanics of Metatarsalgia
Each time we step down on the ball of the foot the metatarsal arch begins to flatten. This allows the metatarsal arch to act as a shock absorber. As we step forward all of our body weight is forced onto the toes and balls of the foot. If they are not aligned properly or if we have insufficient fatty padding, we experience pain. (Click here to learn more about the Metatarsal Arch.)
Causes of Metatarsalgia
Dropped metatarsal - Each foot has five metatarsals that connect to the toes. If one or more of the metatarsal heads sits lower than the others, it will bear more of our body weight than it should. Causes of a dropped metatarsal include:
- A “flexible foot” where the ligaments, tendons and muscles are too lax to hold the bones and joints in their optimal position.
- High heeled shoes which raise the heel, throwing the weight forward onto the ball of the foot. The increased weight and pressure stretches the soft tissues allowing the metatarsal head to drop.
- Injury such as fractured bones or dislocated joints that are not properly treated and may heal in an abnormal position. One common injury is called “March Fractures” derived from military recruits who exhibit this type of fracture. “March Fractures” are also common in runners, joggers, and other athletes.
(Click here to learn more about the Metatarsal Arch and the bones of the foot.)
Thinning or destruction of the fatty pad in the ball of the foot - The fatty pad acts as protection for the interior structures of the foot.
- A dropped metatarsal will destroy the fatty pad between it and the skin.
- Some diseases cause thinning of the fatty pad including rheumatoid arthritis, connective tissue disorders, and endocrine disease.
- Excessive or prolonged pressure on the ball-of-the-foot such as that caused by high heeled shoes, walking barefoot, or wearing shoes with thin soles.
- Feet with high arches, which are usually rigid and don’t allow the arch to come down and contact its support. This causes all of the weight to be forced into the ball-of-the-foot, instead of some of the weight being carried by the arch. People with high arches need adequate arch support in addition to metatarsal support.
- Hammertoes create metatarsal pain when the toes contract and rise up in an effort to grip the ground due to a lack of balanced support from the metatarsals. Proper support gives the gripping toes a chance to relax.
Relief from Metatarsalgia
When metatarsal foot pain strikes, it can seriously disrupt your life. It is very important to tend to the needs of your feet before such occurrences become a problem.
Happy Feet Plus carries a wide variety of products which can offer relief from Metatarsalgia and it’s co-conspirators hammertoes, plantar fasciitis, and others.
Footwear and footwear products which can help prevent or address moderate case of Metatarsalgia include:
For more severe cases of Metatarsalgia the following items are recommended: