The medical term for pain in the ball of the foot is metatarsalgia. It’s more of a catch-all word for a symptom that may be caused by a number of things than a disease in and of itself.

Metatarsalgia is characterized by forefoot pain and inflammation in the padding immediately beneath the toes, where we put the most pressure when standing or moving. The pain is usually felt in the metatarsal heads (the joint just beneath your toes) or the big toe. You might also feel shooting pain, numbness, and pain when flexing your toes. When you are off your feet, the pain may subside and then return when you resume your normal activities.

What causes pain in the ball of the foot?

A person can develop metatarsalgia due to a variety of factors, and it is critical to identify the cause in order to achieve the most effective treatment. The following factors may contribute to metatarsalgia:

  • body weight transfers from intense physical activity
  • having a high arch or a second toe longer than the big toe
  • stress fractures
  • wearing high heels or shoes that are too small
  • foot deformities such as hammer toe and bunions
  • carrying excess weight
  • metatarsal joint pain or arthritis

There are also some specific factors that can cause ball of foot pain. Morton’s neuroma affects the area between the third and fourth toes. This is due to a thickening of the tissues surrounding the nerves that lead to the toes.
Another possibility is Freiberg disease. In this condition, a portion of the metatarsal head loses structural integrity, resulting in the collapse of the head of the second metatarsal and a nearby joint.

Sesamoiditis can also cause metatarsalgia. Sesamoiditis is characterized by broken or inflamed pulley-like bones that are connected to tendons rather than other bones. This condition is common in people who engage in a lot of physical activity, such as ballet dancers or runners.

Risk factors

Metatarsalgia can affect almost anyone, but you are more likely to develop it if you:

  • Take part in high-impact sports that require running and jumping.
  • Wear high heels, ill-fitting shoes, or shoes with spikes, such as cleats.
  • Obese or overweight
  • Have other foot issues, such as hammertoes or calluses on the bottoms of your feet
  • Inflammatory arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis or gout.


If left untreated, metatarsalgia can cause pain in other parts of the same or opposite foot, as well as pain elsewhere in the body, such as the low back or hip, as a result of limping (altered gait) caused by foot pain.

When to See a Canadian Certified Pedorthist

Not all foot problems necessitate medical attention. After a long day of standing or a strenuous workout, your feet may ache. Mild to severe foot pain that lasts more than a few days, on the other hand, should not be ignored. If you have a burning pain in the ball of your foot that does not go away after changing your shoes and changing your activities, consult your Pedorthist.

Pedorthic Treatment Options

Rest, changing shoes, or using a metatarsal pad may be all that is required to alleviate symptoms and reduce pain.

It can be difficult to find shoes that are deep enough for your foot’s instep in some stores! Laced shoes are generally easier to fit than slip-on shoes. If you require slip-on shoes, an elastic gore in the upper can assist you in getting your foot in and out of the shoe.

There are numerous treatments available for metatarsalgia including:

  • Wearing supportive low-heeled shoes.
  • Avoid bare feet, particularly on hard floors.
  • Wear shoes with a forefoot rocker and stiff soles that curve up under the toe to reduce the force required to walk on your toes.

To relieve pressure on the metatarsals, metatarsal pads can be added to your footwear or insoles.

  • Foot orthotics, whether off-the-shelf or custom-made, can provide cushioning and support to relieve pressure on the metatarsals.
  • A Canadian Certified Pedorthist can examine your feet and recommend treatment options to alleviate your metatarsalgia symptoms.

To find a Canadian Certified Pedorthist near you, visit our pedorthist directory.

Written by Reza Sands