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What Causes Metatarsal Foot Pain and How You Can Treat It

Metatarsal foot pain can impact everything you do. When your feet ache, you can’t give your all to your family, your work, or other activities in your lifestyle. If you endure constant foot pain, you may suffer from a condition known as metatarsalgia. Metatarsal arch support and metatarsal pads may help ease your discomfort, as may other convenient remedies you can try at home.

What Is Metatarsalgia?

Those afflicted with metatarsalgia may experience pain and inflammation in the ball of the foot. This condition is not strictly an injury; it can also happen slowly over time as the natural fat pad on the bottom of the feet wears down.  This fat pad “atrophy” and wear and tear doesn’t allow the foot to absorb as much shock as it once did and can contribute to aches in the forefoot.  Metatarsalgia can be exacerbated by certain shoes, activities or physical conditions that put pressure on the ball of the foot. Pain may occur in the ball of the foot, the area of the metatarsal heads, which is the part just before the three middle toes of the foot. Metatarsalgia may also cause shooting pains, tingling, or numbness in the toes.

Common Factors

A variety of factors may lead to metatarsalgia. Narrow or improperly fitted shoes can force the metatarsal area to bear more weight than is healthy. Bunions, hammertoes or arthritis may also force sufferers to walk in such a way as to place undue pressure on the ball of the foot. Excess weight, over use of high heels or increased levels of higher impact activity may also result in metatarsal foot pain.

Treatments for Metatarsalgia

In most cases, you can treat metatarsalgia at home. If the pain is acute, regular ice packs, used in 15 minute intervals and rest can help ease the discomfort.  Wear supportive, comfortable shoes, add cushioned insoles, avoiding being barefoot and use of “bad shoes” (high heels, very flat, flip flops, thin, narrow, stiff or pointy toed).  Use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications can also assist with pain relief and reduce inflammation. If you must stand or walk around, elevate your feet afterward to help take pressure off the ball of the foot.  In resistant cases, it is important to visit your podiatrist and have x-rays taken to rule out stress fractures to this area. Neuromas, which are pinched nerves in the feet and capsulitis, are inflammations around the joints that can also mimic or go hand in hand with metatarsalgia. Left untreated, the pain and condition becomes worse and your activity level will severely decrease.

Proper Arch Support

Ensure footwear fits properly. Try to match the shape of your forefoot to the shape of the shoe. For example, if you have a wide foot or a bunion, it is best to choose a shoe with a square or wide toe box and avoid pointy types.  Choose shoes with lower heels. The American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) recommends 2 inches or lower.  Heels that are higher than 2 inches is where the damage really starts to happen, especially if worn for long periods of time. Heels that are 3 inches and up should be worn in moderation, for special occasions and for short periods of time. They should not be worn for long periods of standing and walking. Also, choose shoes that allow for proper weight distribution across the ball of the foot.  Platform and wedges are a better option instead of stilettos or pumps because they have a greater surface area.  Narrow, tight, or stiff shoes may increase your chances of developing metatarsalgia. Utilize orthotic shoe inserts, as well as metatarsal arch support products to cushion your feet, especially if you participate in heavy activity.

Choosing the Right Foot Care Products for Metatarsalgia

Intense metatarsal foot pain can keep you from the activities you love. Proper arch support and metatarsal pads made of quality materials to ensure proper function and long life. Orthotic shoe inserts should have the American Podiatric Medical Association’s seal of approval for the health of your feet.

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