The symptoms of metatarsalgia can be very similar to symptoms caused by other foot disorders. To help determine if a metatarsalgia diagnosis or other condition is causing foot pain, doctors first examine a patient’s foot and obtain a medical history. Sometimes X-rays are obtained to help rule out other problems, like stress fractures or arthritis.
Treatment of metatarsalgia
In most cases, treatment of metatarsalgia with conservative measures is successful. Such methods include resting, using metatarsal pads, or changing shoes.
Rarely, conservative metatarsalgia treatments do not effectively relieve the pain caused by the ailment, especially when it is complicated by other conditions like hammertoe. In these cases, a metatarsalgia surgery may be needed to realign the bones in the foot. You can discuss the risks and benefits of surgical treatment of metatarsalgia with your physician.
When people exercise and play hard, their feet and toes often suffer, but there are ways to protect the feet. To help prevent metatarsalgia:
- Choose the proper footwear. Wearing shoes that are too tight or too small or high-heeled shoes can create many avoidable problems with the feet. This includes metatarsalgia. Shoes that are not supportive or do not provide adequate cushioning can also cause problems. Choose shoes that have a wide space for the toes and a rocker sole. This type of sole will redistribute weight across the bottom of the foot.
- Try arch supports or cushioned insoles. These can help relieve the pain related to metatarsalgia and may help prevent its recurrence.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Keeping excess weight off can help relieve stress and pressure from the metatarsals.
When recovering after an injury, take things slowly. If you resume activities too quickly, more severe problems can develop that delay your recovery.
To help ease the pain of metatarsalgia, try:
- Resting. You can protect your feet from further injuries by not stressing them. Elevate the feet after walking or standing to allow them to recover. Avoid high-impact sports while recovering. Low-impact activities can help you stay fit, like cycling or swimming.
- Cooling the area. Applications of ice packs to areas affected by metatarsalgia can help reduce pain and inflammation. Wrap ice or ice packs in a thin towel and apply for 15 to 20 minutes several times daily.
- Taking pain relievers. Over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen, aspirin, or naproxen can help relieve pain and inflammation associated with metatarsalgia.
- Wearing proper footwear. Sometimes physicians recommend shoes specially designed for a patient’s foot type, stride, or a specific sports activity.
- Wearing special insoles. These can be purchased over-the-counter. They are made of various materials like plastic, cork gel-like material, or rubber. They fit inside of shoes to help absorb shock, and they provide cushioning to relieve or protect against metatarsalgia.
- Using metatarsal pads. These can be purchased over-the-counter and placed in footwear just in front of the toe bones to help direct pressure off the inflamed and painful area due to metatarsalgia.
- Using arch supports. If insoles are not effective, arch supports may be recommended. These can help reduce stress on the bones of the foot and can sometimes improve the function of the foot. Arch supports available over-the-counter come in different sizes and can be placed right inside the shoe. Permanent arch supports can be molded to precisely fit a patient’s foot and are made from long-wearing materials.
Outcome & Complications
If not treated, metatarsalgia can lead to:
- Inflammation and pain in other parts of the foot or in the other foot.
- Pain and inflammation in other areas of the body, including the hip or the low back. This is due to a limping gait caused by pain in the foot.