Treating Pain in the Balls of the Feet
The balls of the feet—that is, the padded region of the front of the foot, between the toes and the arch—can become magnets for pain and stress. There’s a lot going on “under the hood” in this region of the foot, including the heads of the long metatarsal bones (and their corresponding joints), sesamoid bones, nerves, and connective tissue. Certain activities, foot shapes, or even shoe choices can easily lead to pain and injury.
Fortunately, ball of foot pain—also known as metatarsalgia—is rarely serious or permanent. Even so, ignoring treatment strategies can cause the pain to become more severe, or chronic. Treatment options will vary based on the nature of the injury, but frequently feature home-based remedies and may include the following:
- Rest. Sometimes the best thing to do is simply take it easy and let nature do its work. Avoid sports, high-impact exercises, or other activities that cause pain in the ball of foot until the symptoms improve.
- Ice. Apply an ice pack (or even a bag of frozen peas—wrapped in a towel to protect your skin) for about 20 minutes at a time, a couple of times per day.
- Elevation. Prop your foot up when you sit or sleep in order to reduce swelling and pain.
- Wear good shoes (or at least avoid bad ones). High heels and narrow, pointed shoes are an all-too-common source of ball of foot pain. Skip these restrictive styles and wear roomy, comfy shoes that provide the cushioning, support, and space your feet need.
- Shoe inserts and other physical tools. Depending on the cause and severity of your ball of foot pain, arch supports, cushioned insoles, taping, strapping, bracing, or custom orthotics may be exactly what you need.
- Dermal fillers. Sometimes, ball of foot pain is related to thinning of the fatty pad beneath the forefoot, which is meant to cushion impacts. Injectable fillers can help you regain the cushioning that your feet have lost.
- Immobilization. In rare cases, you might need a cast or walking boot for a short period of time to fully protect a resting foot while it heals.
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