All About Metatarsalgia - What You Need to Know

Understanding Metatarsalgia

There are five metatarsal bones from the big toe to the small toe. These bones provide structure to the foot, but it also helps link muscles allowing you to control the lower limbs and feet. Now that you have understood the anatomical aspects let's explore the impact of damage to the bones by understanding the symptoms, causes, and treatment for metatarsalgia. 

What is Metatarsalgia, and What Are Its Causes?

Do you feel like you are stepping on a pebble as you walk? This is one of the prominent signs of metatarsalgia pain. It is an overuse injury characterized by pain and inflammation in the ball of foot. Although it is a separate condition, it is usually considered a symptom of other diseases. Since it is an overuse injury, several factors can increase the likelihood of developing its symptoms. Common ones include- 

  • Weak toe muscles 
  • Hammertoe
  • Tight toe muscles 
  • Ill-fitted shoes 
  • Obesity 
  • Stress fractures
  • Bunions
  • Tight Achilles tendon
  • Excessive pronation
  • Torn ligaments 

These are among the many factors that result in mild pain that may worsen if not assessed and treated promptly. 

Symptoms of Metatarsalgia

Along with general pain and inflammation, this condition is accompanied by other symptoms that interfere with your daily functioning. 

Pain in the ball of the foot

Sharp, burning or shooting pain in the ball of your foot is a characteristic symptom of metatarsalgia pain. If left untreated, the pain worsens and radiates across the foot and limb. 

Tingling or numbness

Depending on the underlying cause, numbness or tingling in the toes can also be a symptom of this condition. For instance, Morton's neuroma is a non-cancerous and benign inflammation of the nerves in the foot that results in the symptoms of metatarsalgia (numbness/tingling).

Difficulty in walking

If performing basic physical activities like standing, running, or stretching barefoot feels impossible, it could be a symptom of metatarsalgia pain. Without adequate rest, engaging in such activities only worsens the pain and swelling.

Limited range of motion in the foot

The pain and inflammation restrict movement, especially on hard surfaces. Since basic activities involve applying excessive pressure to your toes, the symptoms worsen. This is true specifically for stress fractures that lead to metatarsalgia. 

Pain that increases with activity

Any physical activity can make the pain severe. This is the case, especially for athletes, as intense workouts or training can add pressure and strain the nerves of the feet resulting in long-term damage. 

Common Factors associated with Metatarsalgia

Research suggests that multiple factors may increase your risk of developing this condition. Some of them include the following-


As you age, the fat pad that supports and protects the ball of your foot begins to thin out, leading to excessive pressure. Along with this, other geriatric conditions that result in the wear and tear of joints and muscles can increase the risk of contracting metatarsalgia. 


Research indicates that metatarsalgia mostly affects women. This could be explained by factors such as wearing heels, osteoarthritis, and standing work add pressure to the ball of the foot resulting in pain and discomfort. 

Foot shape

If your feet have high arches or abnormally long bones, misalignment of the structure can lead to excessive pressure or uneven weight distribution across the metatarsals. This worsens the symptoms of metatarsalgia. 


High heels, tight shoes, or spiked sports shoes add pressure to the front of the foot, leading to a lack of support and cushioning. These factors contribute to inflammation and pain. 


Runners or athletes of high-impact sports are highly susceptible to this condition. This is because the front of the foot absorbs significant pressure leading to pain. 

Diagnosis and Treatment of Metatarsalgia

To understand and assess metatarsalgia, your physician may conduct physical examinations that assess deformities, gait, and inflammation. Further, with MRI scans, ultrasounds, and other tests, you can assess trauma, arthritis, circulatory disorders, and more. After the comprehensive diagnosis, various physical therapy treatment options are assessed to design a personalized care plan to meet your concerns. For metatarsalgia pain, physiotherapy treatment options include the RICE method, stretching and strengthening exercises, surgery, medications (NSAIDs, steroids), physical therapy, or orthotics. 

Preventing Metatarsalgia with Physiotherapy

A wide range of physiotherapy techniques, including educating the client on pain management techniques and lifestyle practices, using orthotics, stretching and strengthening exercises, interferential therapy, icing, taping, and infiltration, can be administered to effectively treat and cope with metatarsalgia. 

The Importance of Proper Footwear and Biomechanics

Wearing wide and comfortable footwear with shock-absorbent soles helps prevent compression or pressure on the toes and alleviates pain. Further, the correct arch support is also important as it helps in evenly distributing your body weight. Finally, our experts recommend using orthotics for additional support and stability. 

How to Strengthen and Stretch the Muscles in Your Feet

Regular basic stretching and strengthening exercises will help alleviate pain, numbness, and restricted movement. Our experts suggest practicing calf stretches, ankle extensions, toe towel scrunches, and more to achieve a complete recovery. Further, the appropriate form and technique are essential to prevent additional strain. 

Preventing Recurrence: Maintenance and Follow-Up Care

Following preventative measures, making the necessary lifestyle changes, and taking active steps towards seeking physical therapy are essential to alleviate the condition and prevent its recurrence. Hence, if you experience such symptoms, do not ignore them and seek a consultation at the earliest. 

Cure Metatarsalgia with Physiotattva

Our team of experts at Physiotattva focuses on delivering specialized and quality physiotherapy treatment plans that help you effectively cope with and overcome metatarsalgia pain. The modalities administered, from physical therapy to aqua therapy, help relieve distressing symptoms and provide long-term benefits that protect you from future injuries. Book an appointment at +91 89510 47001 to take the first step to recovery.  

Frequently Asked Questions

How is metatarsalgia diagnosed?

Your physician may conduct the following assessments to determine metatarsalgia pain

  1. Physical examination of deformities, gait, and passive and active movement.
  2. MRIs, X-rays, Ultrasounds, and alternative procedures to determine the location and details.

How can I prevent metatarsalgia pain? 

Our experts suggest the following techniques prevent metatarsalgia-

  1. Wear wide shoes with shock-absorbent insoles and outsoles. 
  2. Avoid footwear with high heels 
  3. Use orthotics for additional support and protection
  4. Practice warm-up and cool-down exercises

What are some treatments for metatarsalgia?

Several treatment options are provided for metatarsalgia, including 

  1. RICE method (rest, ice, elevate, compress)
  2. Stretching and strengthening exercises
  3. Interferential therapy 
  4. Ultrasound therapy
  5. Medications 
  6. Surgery