Ball of Foot Pain
The balls of your feet—those padded areas on the bottom of your feet between the toes and the arch—are surprisingly complex under the surface. Five long metatarsal bones occupy a tight space with a pair of sesamoid bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons, nerves, and blood vessels. Considering how much stress and impact force this area of the foot must endure, pain is unsurprisingly common.
While temporary aches are fairly normal, persistent pain is a sign that something deeper is wrong and requires further examination and treatment.
Symptoms of Ball of Foot Pain
Pain in this region of the foot is also known as metatarsalgia, which is a “catch-all” term that covers the symptoms of many different types of conditions and injuries. Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Pain that can be described as sharp, burning, aching, stabbing, or shooting
- Symptoms worsen with activity and improve somewhat with rest
- Tingling or numbness that extends into the toes
- Feeling like you’re constantly standing on a small pebble or fold in your sock
The pain is usually centered near the base of the big toe—to be specific, around the head of the first long metatarsal bone. That’s because this is the part of the ball that handles the greatest amount of weight and force when you walk, run, and jump.
What Causes Ball of Foot Pain?
There are dozens of potential underlying factors and causes that could lead to metatarsalgia. When you come for your appointment, we’ll help you ascertain the most likely culprits. Some of the most common include:
- Structural problems with the feet, such as flat arches, bunions, hammertoes, or abnormally long metatarsal bones.
- Participation in high-impact sports (running and jumping), dance, or occupations that require you to be on your feet constantly
- Rapid increase in physical activity or change in training routine
- Wearing poorly fitting shoes (especially high heels)
- Development of stress fractures in the metatarsal bones
- Formation of a neuroma (swollen nerve tissue) near the base of the toes
- Inflammation or fracture of the sesamoids, small bones that act like pulleys for your big toe
How to Treat Ball of Foot Pain
If pain is severe, disrupting your activities, or lingers for longer than a week or so, you should make an appointment with the Dallas Podiatry Works team. An examination and discussion with your physician (using X-rays if necessary) will help reveal both treatment methods and prevention strategies that may be beneficial.
Most cases and causes of metatarsalgia can be corrected through conservative therapies, such as:
- RICE therapy (rest, ice, compression, elevation)
- Temporarily avoiding activities that cause spikes in pain
- Physical therapy
- Wearing more appropriate shoes
- Using metatarsal pads, arch supports, taping or splinting the big toe, custom orthotics, or other inserts as necessary to relieve pain and pressure
- Over-the-counter pain relievers
Occasionally, surgery may be required to correct an underlying structural problem, such as a bunion or flat feet, or to remove a neuroma. This will reduce the pressure on the balls of the feet to eliminate the pain.
Pain in the balls of the feet must be addressed if they are slowing you down. To begin your path to healing and recovery, call Dallas Podiatry Works at (972) 566-7474.