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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Pain in the ball of your foot (metatarsalgia)

Mamae ki te pona pōro o tō waewae

Foot anatomy, showing your metatarsals and your phalanges. Metatarsals are the long bones in your foot, phalanges are the bones in your toesPain in the ball of your foot (on the sole, near your toes) is called metatarsalgia (met-a-tar-sell-gee-a). It comes from the word metatarsals (which are the long bones that run between your ankle and your toes) and "algia" which means pain. It can be caused by several different conditions.

The pain often comes on gradually over several weeks, rather than suddenly, and is worse when you're standing, walking or running.

You can get pain in one foot or both feet, and under just one spot or across the width of your foot.

Causes of metatarsalgia

Anything that puts increased pressure or weight on the front of your feet can cause it. Causes include:

Diagnosing metatarsalgia

Your health professional will probably be able to work out what is causing your pain without any specific tests. They might recommend you have an X-ray or blood test. Occasionally, an ultrasound or bone scan can help to reveal the problem.

Self-care for metatarsalgia

There are several things you can do to lessen the pain:

Getting help for metatarsalgia

A podiatrist can help you by looking at what is causing your pain. They can help to make sure you're walking correctly, see if you would benefit from using special insoles called orthotics, wearing different shoes or doing some stretches. They can also help you to change the way you do things to minimise pain and they can arrange for you to have further tests or assessment if necessary.

If you need to find a podiatrist, you can search on the Podiatry NZ website.

In most cases you'll have to pay privately to see a podiatrist, although ACC may cover treatment for some pain caused by an injury.

Your general practice team can also help by looking at what is causing your pain and arrange any further tests or assessment you need. They can advise you on simple things you can do to reduce the pain and help with pain relief. They can also help you to manage any medical condition that may be contributing to your pain.

If your pain is caused by Morton's neuroma or bursitis, a steroid injection might help. Talk to your general practice team or podiatrist about this.

If your pain remains even after you've tried all these measures, you may wish to pay see an orthopaedic, sports or musculoskeletal specialist.

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed April 2023.


Page reference: 285173

Review key: HICCA-28239