Causes and Solutions for Ball-of-Foot Pain

Pain in the ball of the foot is generally called metatarsalgia, a common over-use condition in which your foot becomes painful and inflamed. Understanding the cause will influence which treatment method might be most effective.

Common Causes of Ball-of-Foot Pain

While there are many causes of metatarsalgia, the most common root cause of the pain comes from repeated pressure.

Pressure – Abnormal pressure on the ball of the foot can come from foot deformities like bunions and hammer toes, or activities like dancing, martial arts and high-impact exercise. Too much pressure can also be caused by shoes that put more work load on the front of the foot, like high heels or flip-flops.

Another common cause comes from a condition called Morton’s neuroma.

Morton’s neuroma – A neuroma is a swollen nerve with swelling and scar tissue that develops between the toe bones, which can also come from repeated pressure. There may be sharp, burning pain or numbness in the ball of the foot or toes. Think of carpal tunnel syndrome, but in your foot.

Treatment Methods for Ball-of-Foot Pain

It’s best to start with conservative treatment measures by making minor changes to your footwear.

Shoe modification – Your podiatrist can help you modify your shoes to reduce pain in the ball of the foot. He/she can also help you choose shoes with the correct width and support to eliminate the cause of the pain.

NSAIDS – Ask your podiatrist if a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory would help with your foot pain. It can help relieve the swelling that may be causing the pain.

 Custom orthotics – Your podiatrist can prescribe a custom-made orthotic, which is a shoe insert that is molded to the unique shape of your foot. It can help remove the pressures that often lead to ball-of-foot pain, especially if the pressure is caused by a foot deformity like a bunion or hammertoe.

Injections/surgery – If simple, conservative ways of getting rid of foot pain don’t do the trick, then your podiatrist might recommend steroid injection or even surgery to fix the problem.

The first step to treating your pain is assessing what may be causing the problem. A podiatric physician is trained to identify the root cause of the pain and can then make an informed recommendation on an appropriate treatment plan. You don’t have to live with ongoing pain. Visit a podiatrist today to take the next step toward living pain-free.


Dr. Jennifer Flo is a podiatric physician with NOMS Ankle & Foot Care Centers and treats patients at the group’s Struthers, Austintown and Andover offices.