Pain In The Ball Of Your Foot: The Common Causes And Treatment Options Explained

Posted on: 15 September 2015


Metatarsalgia, more commonly referred to as pain in the ball of your foot, is a common foot condition that can cause a dull ache or shooting pain accompanied by localised swelling. The pain may develop suddenly or gradually and tends to feel worse when you put weight on the affected foot. Here's an overview of the common causes and treatment options for pain in the ball of your foot:


Common causes of pain in the ball of your foot include the following:

  • Rheumatoid Arthritis - When the joints in the front of your feet erode and become inflamed, it's common to experience pain. This is due to the tightening of the muscles around the balls of your feet and a reduction in blood flow to that area.
  • Diabetes - Peripheral neuropathy is a complication of diabetes that can cause nerve damage in your feet. When the front of your foot is affected, you'll experience a burning pain and won't feel minor injuries such as blisters and cuts, which can leave you susceptible to developing an infection or foot ulcer.
  • Joint Stress - High-impact sports, poor running technique and activities that require repetitive foot movements can all put too much stress on the joints at the front of your feet. When this happens, your joints swell and stiffen, leading to pain when you try and use your foot as you normally would.
  • Unsupportive Footwear - Shoes that pinch the front of your feet, such as those with a pointed toe box, can damage the nerve tissue between your metatarsal bones, which can result in pain in the ball of your foot. Additionally, regularly wearing high-heeled shoes forces too much weight to the front of your feet and puts strain on the balls of your feet.
  • Fallen Arches - When your foot arches collapse, your feet don't have sufficient support to carry your weight in the way they once did. This can lead to inflammation, stiff muscles and your shoes no longer fitting as well as they did as a result of your feet spreading out.

Treatment Options

Your podiatrist will examine your feet, take details of your symptoms and health history and formulate a treatment plan based on the established cause of your pain. Common treatments for pain in the ball of your foot include the following:

  • Rest - You don't need to stay off the affected foot completely, but refraining from high-impact exercises or spending large parts of your day on your feet will give the swelling an opportunity to come down. As the swelling reduces, blood flow to the ball of your foot will improve, which can aid healing by delivering oxygen and nutrients to your muscles.
  • Drugs - If your symptoms are severe, your podiatrist may suggest a short course of painkillers or anti-inflammatory drugs to kick-start the healing process. Corticosteroids can be useful for those whose pain is being caused by an underlying inflammatory condition such as arthritis, but you should always get your doctor's approval before taking any new medication.
  • Exercises - Gentle, targeted exercises can be used to loosen stiff muscles and promote improved circulation. They can also help prevent a recurrence of your pain by strengthening your foot and improving your range of movement.
  • Orthotics - Your podiatrist can measure you for custom-made orthotic insoles, which can be made to take pressure off the ball of your foot, lift fallen arches and alter the way your weight is distributed across your feet.

If you're experiencing foot pain, schedule an appointment with your podiatrist at a place like Morrison Podiatry Centre for a thorough foot assessment.