What is Metatarsalgia?

Metatarsalgia is a broad term that describes pain in the forefoot, in the area of the metatarsal bones. These are the long bones in your forefoot that connect to the toes. There are five metatarsal bones in each foot and they play an important role in helping you push off against the ground during walking and running. The anatomy of the forefoot is quite complex and there are numerous joints, ligaments, muscles and nerves that may be the source of pain in this area of the foot.

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Causes of Metatarsalgia?

As metatarsalgia is a broad term describing pain in the forefoot, there may be many sources of pain in this region. Your doctor will perform a thorough physical examination to determine the structures involved and identify the source of your pain.

Metatarsalgia may be related to:

  • Nerve compression or aggravation
  • Plantar plate (ligament) tear
  • Bursitis
  • Bone stress injury
  • Arthritic conditions
  • Improper foot alignment
  • Improper walking mechanics
  • Unusual foot shape
  • Hammertoe
  • Bunions
  • Excess weight
  • Morton’s Neuroma
  • Stress fractures

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Symptoms of Metatarsalgia

  • Pain at the ball, or top of the foot
  • Tenderness to touch
  • Burning or throbbing feeling around the bony part of the ball of the foot
  • Numbness or pins and needles in the toes
  • Pain that is exacerbated by standing, walking or running


As there are many different conditions that may produce metatarsalgia, an accurate clinical diagnosis is an important step to ensure you receive the correct treatment. Your doctor will perform a thorough physical assessment of the painful site, accompanied by a detailed discussion with you, to understand how the pain started and the history of your symptoms. Common treatment approaches include modification of weight-bearing activities, footwear advice, foot orthoses, as well as strength and mobility exercises. Most treatment can be treated without surgery. If surgery is recommended then your doctor will recommend the best treatment option and discuss what treatment is right for you.