The ball of the foot is the padded section just before your toes but before the arch rises. There are multiple problems that can affect this area of foot, but ball of foot pain occurs when pressure or too much weight is applied to the area.
Ball of foot pain can occur because of the shape of your feet. For example, you are more likely to suffer from ball of foot pain if you have smaller toes and high arches. This is because impact from walking or physical activity is focused on the ball of the foot more than usual. Ball of foot pain is often emphasised after exercise; this can indicate that you are wearing incorrect and unsupportive footwear for physical activity.
Pain in the ball of your foot can manifest in several ways; you might be experiencing inflammation and swelling after exercise, sharp pain under the ball of your foot, continuous aching or other symptoms.
The most common type of ball of foot pain is metatarsalgia. This is an overuse condition, most often found in athletes or those who engage in high-impact sports (running and jumping).
What Causes Ball Of Foot Pain?
The small nerves in the foot can rub together and cause inflammation around the metatarsal bones in the ball of the foot. This is usually caused by intense training and strenuous activity with an increased impact on the area. Alternatively, small breaks in the metatarsal bones or anywhere in the forefoot can cause stress fractures and pain in the ball of the foot as the structure of your foot is affected.
Morton’s Neuroma causes pain in the ball of the foot and can feel like a small stone in your shoe, a sharp pain, pins and needles in the toe box or numbness. This is where the tissue around the nerve thickens, but you can get more information here.
Those who are overweight are naturally more likely to experience foot concerns, including ball of foot pain. This is because there is more weight and therefore a greater impact from walking and other activities. To prevent foot pain, you should consider losing weight if it is healthy to do so.
How To Treat Ball Of Foot Pain
If left untreated, metatarsalgia or ball of foot pain can worsen the condition and cause pain in other areas of the foot, lower legs, back and the other foot. This occurs because you will naturally rely on your other foot and other muscles to compensate for light stepping with your injured foot.
As with most strain or sprain injuries, treatment for pain in the ball of the foot is largely preventative:
Properly designed and supportive orthotic inserts will curve upwards to cushion the ball of the foot (toe box) and have arch support, as most people who complain of ball of foot pain also have a high instep. The orthotics are designed with shock absorbers to minimise the impact on the ball of the foot with every step. FootActive Metatarsalgia Insoles are designed to re-align the foot over time without causing injury to other areas of the foot or body.
Shoes With A Wide Toe-Box
Open-toed shoes, squarer-toes shoes and wide fitting shoes can all reduce the strain to the ball of the foot, essentially reducing the pain in the area. Many athletes tighten their trainers too much as they are looking for support to the underside of the foot and mistake the sensation. Unfortunately, this can make the condition worse.
Women who wear high heels are also more likely to experience ball of foot pain. This is because the foot is angled downwards, and the ball of the foot will take the brunt of the shock and impact of movement.
Over the counter pain relief and anti-inflammatories are recommended for acute flare ups and pain after long days on your feet or high-impact activity. If the pain persists and you are regularly turning to medication, you should consult a doctor or podiatrist.
Ball Of Foot Pain Relief & When To Speak To A Doctor
If ball of foot pain persists after you have completed the at-home treatments and preventative methods, you should consult your GP. They may take medical action if the pain is so severe it is preventing you from your daily activities. It might be the case that you have a pinched nerve that is causing acute pain in the ball of your foot or undiagnosed arthritis.
Consult your doctor or podiatrist if you are experiencing ball of foot pain if you have diabetes.