Severe Pain on the Ball of the Foot

What could be my problem?

Metatarsalgia is caused when the front part of your foot, under the heads of your metatarsal bones, has become inflamed and painful.

What causes Metatarsalgia?

  • Intense training or activity - like participating in high-impact sports, especially if your shoes fit poorly or are worn-out
  • Certain foot shapes - A high arch puts more pressure on metatarsals or having a second toe longer than the big toe, which shifts more weight to the second metatarsal head.
  • Foot deformities - Too-small shoes or high heels can cause the foot to become misshapen. A downward-curling toe (hammertoe) and swollen, painful bumps at the base of your big toes (bunions) can cause Metatarsalgia.
  • Excess weight - Most of your body weight transfers to your forefoot when you move.
  • Poorly fitting shoes - High heels transfer extra weight to the front of the foot.  Shoes with a narrow toe box or athletic shoes that lack support and padding.
  • Stress fractures - Small breaks in the metatarsals or toe bones can be painful and change the way you put weight on your foot.

When to see a foot specialist about Metatarsalgia:

  • If you have sharp, aching or burning pain in the ball of your foot.
  • If you have a pain that worsens when you stand, run, flex your feet, or walk – especially barefoot on a hard surface – but improves when you rest.
  • If you have sharp or shooting pain, numbness or tingling in your toes
  • A feeling of having a pebble in your shoe.

What are my treatment options?


Non-surgical options to treat the pain in the ball of your foot caused by this condition include:

  • Rest
  • Changing shoes
  • Using a metatarsal pad in your shoes


When conservative measures fail to relieve your foot pain and Metatarsalgia is complicated by foot conditions, such as hammertoe, surgery to realign the metatarsal bones may be indicated by your foot surgeon.