Although heel pain is somewhat more common, the balls of the feet are another common target area for painful injuries and conditions that can keep you from doing what you love. This is especially true for athletes, runners, outdoor enthusiasts, and anyone who spends a lot of time on their feet.
As with other parts of the foot, pain in this area can be indicative of several different types of conditions—from fractures to soft tissue injuries to nerve problems and more. It’s not always easy to tell from the symptoms alone what actual injury has occurred—and what the optimal treatment route should be.
But don’t worry! That’s what we’re here for. The team at Canyon Foot + Ankle can quickly and accurately diagnose your ball of foot pain (also known as metatarsalgia), provide effective treatment options, and help you back to full speed as soon and as safely as possible!
What Is Causing My Ball of Foot Pain?
Some of the more common ball of foot pain diagnoses include, but are not limited to:
- Morton’s neuroma. This is a benign thickening of tissue around one of the nerves that lead to your toes. When bearing weight, the neuroma presses against the nerve, which causes discomfort, and often burning or tingling sensations. Many people describe the sensation as similar to standing on a pebble.
- Stress fractures. The weight-bearing metatarsal bones in the ball of the foot are subjected to repetitive stresses every day. If the impact forces stress the bones at a faster rate than they can be remodeled, cracks may develop on the bone surfaces. This may start as intermittent aching during or after exercise, but progress to much more constant and severe pain as the cracks worsen.
- Sesamoiditis. There are two small bones near the base of your great toe called sesamoids, which act as “pulleys” to help the toe flex and push off. If they become irritated or fractured, ball of foot pain is frequently the result. It may also become difficult to bend or straighten your toe.
- Capsulitis. In this condition, the “capsule” of ligaments surrounding a joint at the base of a toe (often the second digit) become irritated or inflamed. The pain may initially be similar to Morton’s neuroma. However, unlike a neuroma, as capsulitis progresses it can lead to instability in the entire toe, causing it to drift out of alignment.
- Nerve injuries or conditions. Sometimes ball of foot pain is caused by a nerve problem other than a neuroma, such as peripheral neuropathy or a nerve that has become pinched, compressed, or otherwise damaged in some way.
A thorough examination of your feet, as well as an in-depth discussion with you about your symptoms and medical history, will help us determine not only the diagnosis, but the likely root causes of your pain.
What Are the Treatment Options for Ball of Foot Pain?
The specific treatments we recommend will be based on both the nature of the injury itself, as well as the external and internal factors that are causing it. We understand that our patients want quick relief so they can go back to doing what they love. This can be especially true of athletes and active people.
The good news is that most ball of foot pain conditions can be treated non-surgically through simple, conservative techniques. Seeking our help sooner rather than later further increases your chances of a swift, successful, and non-surgical solution. Potential components of a customized treatment plan may include:
- Choosing more appropriate footwear. Making sure you wear comfortable, well-fitting shoes that are activity-appropriate can protect the balls of the feet from excessive forces. Especially avoid high heels, flip flops, or completely flat/unsupportive shoes except in very rare circumstances.
- Using arch supports or orthotics. Sometimes, simply switching to better shoes isn’t enough. This may be the case if you have any structural or biomechanical issues with your feet, such as flat arches or overpronation. We often prescribe custom orthotics made from graphite, which are especially valuable for athletes due to being lightweight, thin, and very supportive without being rigid or uncomfortable.
- Modify your activities as necessary. We want to keep you moving and participating in your favorite activities! However, there may be certain modifications you can make to your training routine (including doing more low-impact exercises) that allow you to decrease the pressure on the balls of your feet and increase “rest and recovery time” without slowing you down overall.
- Laser therapy. Our MLS laser therapy system is a highly effective, non-invasive treatment option that can significantly accelerate your body’s natural processes for pain relief, anti-inflammation, and repair of injured tissue. It’s painless and extremely safe, and is often recommended for athletes in particular due to the fact that it can shorten overall recovery time by 40% or more.
- Surgery. For certain ball of foot pain conditions, surgery might be recommended if the condition is severe or isn’t responding to conservative treatments. Examples of this include removing part of a nerve impacted by a Morton’s neuroma, or reconstructing and realigning a toe that has drifted out of place due to capsulitis.
Let Canyon Foot & Ankle Get You Back Up to Speed
We specialize in helping our patients live their lives to the fullest. If your ball of foot pain is bothering you, or making it difficult to fully enjoy your favorite activities, give us a call!
No problem is “too small” to bring to your podiatrist, especially if the quality of your life is being affected. Earlier diagnosis and treatment often means faster results via less invasive techniques.
To request your appointment with us, connect with us online or call your preferred treatment location at (208) 733-0436 for Twin Falls and (208) 678-2727 for Burley.