Metatarsalgia (met-uh-tahr-SAL-juh) is a condition in which the ball of your foot becomes painful and inflamed. You might develop it if you participate in activities that involve running and jumping. There are other causes as well, including foot deformities and shoes that are too tight or too loose.
Symptoms of metatarsalgia can include:
- Sharp, aching or burning pain in the ball of your foot — the part of the sole just behind your toes
- Pain that worsens when you stand, run, flex your feet or walk — especially barefoot on a hard surface — and improves when you rest
- Sharp or shooting pain, numbness, or tingling in your toes
A feeling of having a pebble in your shoe
Various foot problems can cause symptoms similar to those of metatarsalgia. To help pinpoint the source of your pain, your doctor will examine your foot while you stand and while you sit and ask about your lifestyle and activity level. You might need an X-ray to identify or rule out a stress fracture or other foot problems.
Conservative measures — such as resting, changing shoes or using a metatarsal pad — might be all you need to relieve signs and symptoms.
In rare cases, when conservative measures don’t relieve your pain and your metatarsalgia is complicated by foot conditions such as hammertoe, surgery to realign the metatarsal bones might be an option.