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What Is Metatarsalgia?

Metatarsalgia is a type of pain in the ball of the foot (the forefoot). Other types of forefoot pain include neuroma and sesamoiditis. Metatarsalgia can have a number of different causes, and treatment will depend on what exactly is causing the pain.

Common Causes of Metatarsalgia

Some of the most common causes of metatarsalgia include:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Foot deformities
  • Freiberg disease, a rare condition that usually affects teens and young adults
  • Intense activity, especially anything involving running or jumping


Pain in the ball of the foot is the main symptom of metatarsalgia. It can be sharp, aching or burning, and it usually gets worse upon standing and walking. There is less pain after resting. In addition to pain in the ball of the foot, pain, numbness or tingling in the toes can also be present.


A physical exam and medical history are usually enough to diagnose metatarsalgia and to figure out what’s causing it. An X-ray can be useful to rule out a fracture of the foot or other bone conditions.


Conservative approaches are usually the first line of treatment for metatarsalgia, no matter the cause. These can include:

  • Arch supports
  • Ice
  • Over-the-counter pain medications
  • Rest
  • Wearing proper shoes

If conservative approaches fail to work, surgery to fix a specific cause or to realign the metatarsal bones in the foot may be necessary.

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