Ball of foot pain
N.B. You should see your GP or podiatrist if the pain is severe, is getting worse and hasn't improved after treating it at home for 2 weeks.
Pain in the ball of your foot is known as metatarsal pain and the name of the condition that involves people suffering from metatarsal pain is called metatarsalgia.
Although there are so many factors that contribute to metatarsal pain, Biomechanical factors explain 90% of all cases of metatarsalgia.
Pronation issues and high arches are some of the most factors when it comes to foot mechanics.
Ball of foot pain, although sometimes made worse by Morton's neuroma, is sometimes mistaken for it so it's important you see someone if you have prolonged pain.
You can even end up developing pain in the opposite foot if you only have pain in one of your feet. Other parts of the body are also at risk, you can develop lower back and hip pain.
This is mainly because of the effect foot pain has on the way we walk, it affects our posture and gait which can have a knock-on effect on other parts of the body. This makes treatment even more necessary.
Symptoms of Metatarsalgia
N.B. Please don't attempt to self-diagnose yourself, you should always seek qualified medical guidance if you believe you have developed a medical condition/injury.
Some symptoms of metatarsalgia are:
- Sharp or burning pain in the ball of your foot
- Shooting pain and numbness in your toes
- Pain gets worse when standing, walking, running or when you flex your foot.
It might even feel like walking around with a small stone in your shoe
Causes of ball of foot pain
There are numerous potential causes and factors that could've caused your ball of foot pain. According to the NHS, pain in the ball of your foot is most commonly caused by exercise and physical activities.
- High-impact sports and running
- Shoes too small or wrong shoes
- Excess weight, age, etc.
- Pronation issues or high arches
- Stress fractures
- Morton's neuroma
Morton's neuroma is a noncancerous growth of fibrous tissue around a nerve and it is usually between the third and fourth metatarsal heads.
It causes symptoms that are very similar to metatarsalgia and can cause metatarsal pain.
Treatment of ball of foot pain
In order to ease ball of foot pain, the most important thing is rest, this means avoiding activities that we mentioned earlier such as Running and other high-impact sports/exercises.
Elevation and ice are also important so the POLICE principle is a key guideline you can use to manage your ball of foot pain.
Although we usually go on about using the PEACE & LOVE principle instead in this part of the article and go on to tell you how you should avoid anti-inflammatories because they slow down healing, this is more true for metatarsal pain.
Using ice packs is fine because they are good for pain relief and numbing the area but you should avoid ibuprofen initially and try to opt for paracetamol instead.
You should look at getting comfortable insoles, the right shoes (and the right size or bigger) and other foot pain relief products such as gel heel pads, orthotics & insoles and ice packs or topical products
If you are overweight, it is strongly advised that you lose some weight because weight is a strong factor when it comes to ball of foot pain.
Exercise and stretching are of course also extremely important as is the case with other types of foot pain.
Pain relief products for Metatarsal pain
As mentioned, earlier, ice packs are a great tool to have for treating ball of foot pain. They help provide pain relief by numbing the problem area and also help reduce inflammation.
Although Heel pads are more for heel pain, the purpose is shock absorption which can make high-impact activities a lot easier on the feet.
These heavy-duty heel pads are designed to absorb as much impact as possible so if you're a runner or athlete then these will be perfect additions to your shoes.
When it comes to ball of foot pain, cushioning and protecting the feet are extremely important so although heel pads can help, you will have to make more changes to your footwear
Orthotics/insoles can help to correct your feet and properly reduce the impact on your feet.
Orthotic Insoles for metatarsal pain
These orthotic Insoles from footactive are perfect for ball of foot pain and metatarsalgia, they are optimised for comfort with many features designed to cushion your feet, improve your gait and support your feet mechanics.
The deep stabilising cup, arch support and metatarsal support are important for correcting your feet and providing well-needed support, especially if you don't have 'normal feet'.
You might notice from the infographic that they also have shock-absorbing nodules in the forefoot where ball of foot pain is concentrated.
They also have a cushioning heel pad at the back to help take a bit of impact from activities like walking or running.
The material used adds that extra bit of comfort and makes these orthotic insoles very enjoyable to wear.
These are another option of orthotic insoles from Footactive that comes with a shock-absorbing pad, cushioning heel pad, metatarsal support, arch support and a deep heel cup.
These types of insoles are really good for ball of foot pain because they are corrective and cover everything needed to help provide more comfort.
As these are 'nature' insoles, they're more for walking and hiking but can also withstand more intense physical activities like running and sports.
These are full-length orthotics with removable 1st ray plugs under the big toe that help enhance foot function.
Vasyli orthotics are customisable so you can remove the 1st ray plugs and replace them with Vasyli's Metatarsal Pads.
They have tri compound density construction for support and cushioning in everyday and active endeavours.
Like the footactive orthotic insoles, they provide ultimate biomechanical control and support. They also include a fashionable and comfortable Suede-like (man-made) top cover with antimicrobial protection.
These orthotic insoles are designed to assist in improving overall posture and reducing stress on lower back muscles so they can also help alleviate the knock-on effects of ball of foot pain.
These Custom orthotics from Vasyli are for women's fashion shoes so they're not really for everyday use although they could probably fit in a wide range of shoes.
They do however come with a built-in metatarsal raise which ensures the correct alignment of the metatarsal bones.
This means that if you suspect that your ball of foot pain was caused by wearing shoes like high heels then these could be the answer to your pain relief and walking around more comfortably.
Sources and References
 J. Besse 2017. Metatarsalgia, Orthopaedics & Traumatology: Surgery & Research,Volume 103, Issue 1, Supplement, Pages S29-S39, ISSN 1877-0568.
Mayo Clinic - Metatarsalgia
DLT Podiatry - Ball of foot pain/Metatarsalgia