In metatarsalgia (met-uh-tahr-SAL-juh) the ball of your foot becomes painful and inflamed.

You may experience metatarsalgia if you participate in activities that involve running and jumping. Or, you may develop metatarsalgia by wearing ill-fitting shoes. There are other causes as well.

Although generally not serious, metatarsalgia can sideline you. Fortunately, at-home treatments, such as ice and rest, often can relieve metatarsalgia symptoms. Proper footwear with shock-absorbing insoles or arch supports may be all you need to prevent or minimize future problems with metatarsalgia.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications Prevention

Symptoms of metatarsalgia may include:

  • Sharp, aching or burning pain in the ball of your foot — the part of the sole just behind your toes
  • Pain that worsens when you stand, run, flex your feet or walk — especially barefoot on a hard surface — and improves when you rest
  • Sharp or shooting pain, numbness, or tingling in your toes
  • A feeling of having a pebble in your shoe

Sometimes symptoms develop suddenly — especially if you've recently increased the time or intensity of your high-impact exercise, such as running — but problems usually develop over time.

When to see a doctor

Not all foot problems need medical care. Sometimes your feet simply ache after a long day of standing or a punishing workout. But it's best not to ignore any foot pain that lasts more than a few days. Talk to your doctor if you experience a burning pain in the ball of your foot that doesn't improve after changing your shoes and modifying your activities.

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