You’re busy rushing down the street, and it feels like there’s a stone in your shoe, but when you check, nothing’s there. Right underneath your big toe, there’s a sore spot, and it keeps getting more painful. Metatarsalgia is a common disorder that makes the ball of your foot sore. It often develops after long periods of walking or running when you place pressure on the ball of your foot. Unsupportive footwear with insufficient padding and wearing shoes that are too small worsen metatarsalgia. Running and other sports also put a tremendous amount of pressure on your feet and can cause metatarsalgia.
If you don’t know why the ball of your foot feels like a fireplace, this is a classic symptom of metatarsalgia. Pain radiates like heat from your foot after activity, such as walking or other sports that exert pressure on your foot. The best option to deal with this is to rest your feet and add padding to your shoes. Over-the-counter pain medication can provide short-term relief, but you should visit a doctor if the pain becomes unbearable.
At a pedestrian crosswalk, the light turns green, so you rush to the other side of the street. A sharp pain radiates from your foot and through your whole body. Walking becomes more painful, and you have a hard time just getting around without limping. Though the pain is sharp, it fades quickly, so you can add padding in your shoes and wear loose, comfortable footwear to take off some of the pressure. If the symptoms persist, see a doctor.
Another common symptom of metatarsalgia is a tingling sensation, sometimes accompanied by numbness in your toes. It also causes an irritating itch for some people. It’s no fun when your foot tickles of its own accord, and there’s not much you can do except wait it out. This is a particular problem for marathon and long-distance runners, or shift workers who spend a lot of time on their feet.
Pain While Standing
If you experience intense pain while standing up, you may have metatarsalgia. To alleviate the pain, wear well-padded shoes and keep your feet up as much as possible to prevent further irritation during your daily activities. Avoid placing too much pressure on the affected foot when standing for long periods of time. When the problem dissipates the pain reduces to a tingling sensation before going away completely.
Pain When You Put Your Foot Down
If you can’t put your foot down without pain radiating from the balls of your feet, you may have metatarsalgia. While you are standing, the pain seems bearable, but as soon as you put any pressure on the area, intense heat and pain shoot through your body. This happens when the bone applies pressure on your nerves following an overuse injury. Rest your feet and seek medical help if the pain gets worse or other symptoms to arise.
Stone or Debris in Your Shoes
If you feel like there’s a stone in your shoe but nothing’s there, you may have metatarsalgia. The pain gradually increases as the metatarsal bones in your foot press on the nerve. The best way to recover is to rest your foot and wear padding in your shoes. If that doesn’t help, you can try hot or cold compresses to alleviate the pain and swelling.
Numbness in Your Toes
Numbness in the toe is often described as prolonged compression of foot nerves. Since there has been so much pressure on the nerve, it tends to cause the nerve to temporarily stop relaying information to the brain thus a total blackout. It doesn’t last for very long before the pain comes back. This could be seen as a temporary relief from the pain emanating from your foot. People who have diabetes encounter this as a temporary condition when a foot relies on just a sense of touch.
Hard Skin on Your Foot
Hard skin on the bottom of your foot is another symptom of the overuse injury metatarsalgia. Don’t pick at the skin thinking that will help. You could develop an infection or further injure your foot. Buy pads for your shoes to avoid re-injury and to help with the pain. If the pain worsens, seek medical attention.
Tenderness Around Your Toes
A slight tenderness around your toes is another common symptom of metatarsalgia. When you touch the tender skin, it causes additional pain. Stay off your feet and avoid vigorous exercise to allow your feet time to heal. You shouldn’t need to visit a doctor unless other symptoms develop or the pain doesn’t go away.
The Bigger Picture
If you have more than one of the symptoms above, you probably have a more severe case of metatarsalgia. Though rest and foot padding should help, this could indicate a larger underlying problem. Don’t wait for the problem to go away if it’s not getting better. Your doctor can suggest a course of action that could include lifestyle and diet changes, or she may run various tests to evaluate your overall health.