Pain in the Ball of the Foot

Pain in the ball of the foot, also known as metatarsalgia, is a frequent occurrence among both athletes and non athletes. It is an umbrella term for a number of conditions that can affect your forefoot. It generally occurs around the 2nd, 3rd and/ or 4th metatarsal head. Metatarsals are the long bones in the foot and we have five of them in each foot. See picture below.


You might feel a pain or an ache when the soft tissue around the heads of the metatarsal bones gets inflamed. Signs may include sharp ache behind the toes in the ball of foot region. Pain rises with every exercise that involves weight transfer to the foot, running, walking, jumping, or standing on hard floors for lengthy intervals.


Treatment entails rest, to take the pressure off the balls of the feet, and ice packs 2 – 3 times a day for the initial few days to lessen the inflammation. Mild medication like ibuprofen aids in reducing swelling and pain.

Changing your work out routine may also help. Try activities with a low impact on the foot such as swimming.

Patients find orthotics (arch supports) very useful in alleviating pains in the balls of their feet. Foot orthotics intended for metatarsalgia normally include a pad behind the ball of the foot known as a metatarsal pad or metatarsal bar pad. They strive to spread weight off of the painful metatarsals to other regions of the foot.

Your physiotherapist or podiatrist may recommend a few simple exercises. Try rolling your foot over a tennis ball/ spiky massage ball.


  • Wear well fitting footwear. Keep in mind your feet are slightly bigger in the afternoon so when buying new shoes, its best to do so later during the day rather than in the morning.
  • Utilising arch supports and insoles may also help to make your foot comfortable which will provide additional help and protection avoiding the threat of injury and pressure.

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