Metatarsalgia is a term used to describe pain in the front of the foot, around the area where the metatarsal bones are. The symptoms can include the following: pain and tenderness in the ball of the foot, the sensation of walking on a small stone, shooting pains, burning sensation, numbness, pins and needles and painful calluses. There are many different types of metatarsalgia depending on the structures involved. These include; Plantar Capsulitis, Flexor Tenosynovitis, MTP joint Synovitis, Freiberg’s Disease, Morton’s Neuroma and Metatarsal Stress Fractures. There are a number of reasons why people develop Metatarsalgia and it can be treated effectively with the use of custom orthotics and well-fitting footwear to correct biomechanical issues in the foot and offload high-pressure points.
What Causes Metatarsalgia?
A high-impact activity like long-distance running can increase the chances of developing Metatarsalgia because the ball of the foot is absorbing a lot of impacts over an extended period. This problem is made worse if you don’t wear appropriate shoes to accommodate your foot type and absorb the impact. In some cases, people develop small stress fractures, which increase the pain. Shoes fitting too small or too large can cause the problem or make it worse, it’s crucial to have the flex point of the shoe lined up with your foot.
Even when not engaging in high-impact exercise, poorly fitting shoes can lead to extra pressure on the metatarsals. This is a common issue in women that wear high heels.
Certain foot shapes can also lead to Metatarsalgia. People that have high arches often experience pain in the ball of the foot because their foot shape affects how weight is distributed. More pressure is put on the metatarsals instead of being spread evenly across the base of the foot, causing excess stress. Having a second toe that is longer than the big toe also causes more weight to be shifted towards the metatarsals. People who overpronate and have a lower arch foot type can also develop metatarsalgia. Other causes include systemic inflammatory arthritis, nerve entrapment or other systemic diseases.
How To Prevent Metatarsalgia
Choosing the right footwear is key to preventing Metatarsalgia. When exercising, it is important to wear supportive shoes to reduce pressure on the ball of the foot. If you experience regular pain and you wear high heels, you should also consider changing your footwear. Making sure that your shoes fit correctly is also important.
Weight can also be a factor here, so it is important to maintain a healthy weight and take the pressure off your feet. Practicing toe strengthening exercises and balancing exercises can help strengthen your feet so they will be less vulnerable to injury.
However, if the Metatarsalgia is caused by high arches or other differences in foot shape, specialist treatments may be required to correct the problem and offer improved support and function.
How Can Metatarsalgia Be Treated?
One of the best ways to manage Metatarsalgia is to use custom orthotics to offload and better distribute weight across the metatarsals and to help make your feet function more efficiently. In people that have high arches, for example, supportive inserts can redistribute weight in the feet evenly and prevent excess pressure on the metatarsals. Specific strengthening and balancing exercises are prescribed to help strengthen the intrinsic or small muscles around the metatarsals and foot in general.
By using the latest in 3D laser scanning technology or skillful casting, we can create an accurate image/cast of your feet. This can then be used as the basis for designing custom orthotics to support your foot in the right way and redistribute weight. Giving the right support to the muscles, bones, and tendons in your foot and allowing your foot to function more efficiently can help strengthen and heal the affected area. The use of custom orthotics is one of the best ways to give long-term relief from Metatarsalgia. Although basic shoe inserts may offer some relief by providing extra cushioning, custom options that are designed specifically for your feet are more effective.
If you are concerned about pain in the ball of your foot, get in touch with Healthy Steps today and we can start the process of designing custom orthotics to provide long-term relief.
At Healthy Steps, we start with a comprehensive assessment to determine how to best manage and relieve your Metatarsalgia.