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Reston Hospital Center
StoneSpring Emergency Center



Metatarsalgia is a condition that causes pain and inflammation to the ball of your foot. You may also feel pain in the big toe or the 3 toes closest to the big toe.

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Metatarsalgia can be caused by a number of conditions:

Risk Factors

Metatarsalgia is more common in older adults due to the aging process. Factors that increase your chance of developing metatarsalgia include:

  • Feet with high arches
  • Feet with abnormally long bones
  • Claw/ Hammer toes
  • High-impact sports
  • Being overweight
  • Wearing shoes that don’t fit well or high heels
  • Problems with circulation
  • Gout
  • Diabetes
Claw Toes
claw toe
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Symptoms of metatarsalgia include:

  • Pain in the ball of the foot
  • Numbness or tingling in toes or foot
  • Pain when walking
  • Toe pain
  • Pain with movement
  • Sharp pain
  • Feeling like you are walking on pebbles
  • Associated back or leg pain
  • Weakness in the limb


You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You may be referred to a specialist.

Images may need to be taken of your foot. This can be done with x-ray .


Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:

Supportive Care

The foot will need time to heal. Supportive care includes:

  • Rest—Activities may need to be restricted at first.
  • Ice—Ice therapy may help relieve swelling.
  • Elevation—Keeping the foot elevated can help fluids drain out or prevent fluids from building up.

Shoe inserts called orthotics may be advised to help lessen pain and provide support. Insoles may also be advised. They may be shock absorbers, arch supporters, or special pads that protect your foot.

A nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) may be advised to reduce pain and inflammation. A corticosteroid shot is sometimes injected into the foot to lessen pain.


If there are foot problems that are causing the metatarsalgia, surgery may be recommended. The type of surgery depends upon what is causing the problem.

Diet and Exercise

If excessive weight is contributing to the foot pain, you may be asked to lose weight through diet and exercise.


To help reduce your chance of getting metatarsalgia, take the following steps:

Revision Information

  • American College of Foot & Ankle Orthopaedics & Medicine

  • American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society

  • The Canadian Orthopaedic Association

  • Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation

  • Metatarsalgia. American College of Foot & Ankle Orthopaedics & Medicine website. Available at: Accessed March 2, 2015.

  • Metatarsalgia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated April 16, 2014. Accessed March 2, 2015.

  • Pain in the ball of the foot (metatarsalgia). Merck Manuals website. Available at: Accessed March 2, 2015.