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(Pain in Ball of Foot)

Pronounced: meta-tar-sal-jea
En Español (Spanish Version)

Definition | Causes | Risk Factors | Symptoms | Diagnosis | Treatment | Prevention


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


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Metatarsalgia can be caused by a number of conditions:

Risk Factors

Factors that increase your chance of developing metatarsalgia include:

  • Feet with high arches
  • Feet with abnormally long bones
  • Claw/ Hammer toes
  • High-impact sports
  • Increased age

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


Your doctor will ask 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:

Rest is an important part of treatment. Elevate your foot on pillows and ice it to speed healing.

Your doctor may prescribe shoe inserts. They may help lessen pain and provide support. Your doctor may also recommend insoles. 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.

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:


American College of Foot & Ankle Orthopaedics & Medicine


American Physical Therapy Association


American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society



The Canadian Orthopaedic Association


Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation



Metatarsalgia. American College of Foot & Ankle Orthopaedics & Medicine website. Available at: http://www.acfaom.org/information-for-patients/common-conditions/metatarsalgia. Accessed November 5, 2008.

Metatarsalgia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 4, 2010. Accessed May 1, 2013.

Pain in the ball of the foot (metatarsalgia). Merck Manuals website. Available at: http://www.merck.com/mmhe/sec05/ch072/ch072b.html. Updated December 2012. Accessed May 1, 2013.

Last reviewed March 2013 by John C. Keel, MD; Michael Woods, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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