Metatarsalgia is pain and inflammation in the ball of the foot.


Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


Some things that may cause this problem are:

Risk Factors

This problem is more common in older adults. Other things that may raise the risk of this problem are:

  • Feet with high arches
  • Feet with abnormally long bones
  • Hammer toes
  • Playing high-impact sports
  • Being overweight
  • Wearing shoes that do not fit well or high heels
  • Problems with blood flow
  • Gout
  • Diabetes

Claw Toes
claw toe

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


Problems may be:

  • Pain in the ball of the foot or in the toe
  • Numbness or tingling in the toes or foot
  • Pain that is worse when standing, walking, or running
  • A feeling that you have a pebble in your shoe


You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on the foot.

Images may need to be taken of the foot. This can be done with x-rays.


The goal of treatment is to ease pain and promote healing. Options are:

  • Rest, ice, and elevation
  • Medicines to ease pain and swelling
  • Shoe inserts or insoles to provide support and ease pain

Some people may need surgery to treat foot problems that are causing metatarsalgia.


The risk of this problem can be lowered by:


American College of Podiatric Medicine

American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society


The Canadian Orthopaedic Association

Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation


Forefoot pain (metatarsalgia). American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society—FootCareMD website. Available at: Accessed July 30, 2020.

Pain in the ball of the foot (metatarsalgia). Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: Updated December 2019. Accessed July 30, 2020.

Last reviewed March 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Laura Lei-Rivera, PT, DPT  Last Updated: 3/10/2021