Metatarsalgia is the medical term used to refer to a painful condition better known as ‘pain in the ball of the foot’, or ‘ball of the foot pain’. This is an extremely common foot condition that is caused by inflammation in the ‘ball’ or metatarsal area of the foot, and while it can be caused by a number of factors the two most common reasons for its development are the wearing of high heel shoes and feet that overpronate. It’s important to know what has caused pain to develop in the ball of the foot; otherwise, it will be very difficult to choose the correct method for treatment.
- Symptoms: Typical symptoms of metatarsalgia include the sensation of a burning or sharp pain in the ball of the foot and the feeling that there is a lump or pebble in the shoe. It is not unusual for calluses to form on the ball of the foot as well.
- Causes: The wearing of high heel shoes is the most common cause of metatarsalgia; with people who do not wear high heel shoes the most common cause is over-pronation of the feet.
- Treatment: The use of orthotics to support and cushion the metatarsal bones in the forefoot and to correct over-pronation is the most common and effective treatment for pain in the ball of the foot caused by metatarsalgia.
Pain in the Ball of the Foot in Relation to High Heels
The primary reason that wearing high heels causes pain in the ball of the foot is due to the design of the shoe; 80% of a person’s body weight is forced to front of the foot when wearing heels. This not only places the metatarsal area of the foot under a great deal of pressure, but it can cause the surrounding ligaments to weaken and become less supportive as well. This concentrated pressure point in the front of the shoe is also the source of friction that often causes calluses to develop.
The steep angle of the shoe and the resulting unnatural allotment of bodyweight results in excessive pressure being applied to the metarsal bones and the surrounding tissues, especially if the wearer is walking long distances or standing in this shoe for an extended period of time.
Wearing high heels can also cause problems with the Achilles tendon (which is found in the back of the heel) due to the gradual but intense tightening of the calf muscles often associated with this type of shoe. The Achilles tendon may become tight and tender to the touch, and if the situation is not addressed the biomechanics of the feet may eventually be compromised, which can lead to further problems down the road.
Wearing high heels often causes problems throughout the entire foot—from the metatarsal bones at the forefront to the Achilles tendon in the rear. It’s not unusual to experience pain not only in the ball of the foot but throughout the entire appendage if care isn’t taken to address the problem as soon as it develops.
Most women are not willing to sacrifice fashion for the health of their feet, no matter how practical that solution may be. That’s why a US podiatrist created Dr Foot orthotics to restore optimal biomechanical functioning in the feet, no matter what type of shoe is being worn. These orthotics are a welcome relief to fashion devotees who will benefit from the superior support of both the arch and forefront (metatarsal area) of the foot.
Dr Foot orthotics distribute body weight evenly over the entire surface of the foot, thereby relieving hot spots and overloaded pressure points in the ball of the foot. This translates into a serious reduction in the burning pain that usually strikes after standing or walking in high heels for long periods of time. Wearing Dr Foot orthotics has been likened to feeling as though a low heel (or no heel at all) was being worn.
Dr Foot orthotics are available across Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland.
Ball of the Foot Pain and Over-Pronation
When metatarsalgia develops independent of wearing high heels or other damaging types of footwear it can be caused by intense physical activities such as running or dancing, and it commonly occurs in people employed as teachers, farmers, security officers, military personnel and police officers due to their propensity to stand and walk for long periods of time in hard shoes and boots. Being overweight or obese also increases the risk of developing serious pain in the ball of the foot.
The most common underlying reason for the development of metatarsalgia other than wearing high heels, however, is excessive pronation of the feet, which is generally referred to as over-pronation. This condition indicates inferior mechanical functioning of the feet in which they ‘roll in’ too deeply or for too long during the gait cycle. So while this is a natural motion when it occurs in excess it becomes unhealthy for proper foot and leg function.
Our feet are very complex structures comprised of 26 bones and an extensive supporting network of muscles and ligaments. The middle of the foot is actually made up of two arches: the longitudinal arch that runs from heel to toe, and the transverse arch, which crosses the foot horizontally.
Five of the most important bones in our feet are the metatarsal bones, which begin in the middle of the foot and end in the toes. When the feet over-pronate this often causes the longitudinal arch to collapse and the ankle joint to roll inward with every step that is taken. One of the primary side-effects of over-pronation is the resulting excessive tension that is placed on the metatarsal bones, which can then cause the transverse arch to collapse. This chain of events can cause a serious weakening in the forefront of the foot which can become quite painful and cause inflammation to occur in the ball of the foot.
The first step in the treatment of metatarsalgia is to reduce walking and standing as much as possible. Supportive, well-cushioned footwear should be worn at all times and it is recommended that you avoid going barefoot in the early stages of treatment. These steps, combined with daily ice therapy, should reduce inflammation and pain levels a great deal. Calluses can be removed either by a professional or by careful application of home remedies, such as foot soaks and a pumice stone.
Orthotic devices are an important investment in treating pain in the ball of the foot, as they correct poor biomechanical functioning and reduce or eliminate over-pronation of the feet. Dr Foot orthotics provide enhanced arch support, thereby reducing tension and friction points in the ball of the foot. These results provide substantial pain relief associated with metatarsalgia.
It should be noted that unlike Dr Foot orthotics most devices found in pharmacies and chemists are not designed to provide metatarsal support are therefore not an effective option for treating metatarsalgia and the pain symptoms associated with this condition.