Metatarsalgia (Forefoot Pain)

Metatarsalgia is a general term used to denote pain in the front or forefoot of the foot.

Signs and symptoms

There are numerous structures that can cause pain and discomfort in the forefoot. The most common area affected is the second, third and fourth metatarsophalangeal joints (ball of the foot). Intensity varies from mild to severe and may develop or worsen over a period of months. The toes may start to splay or curl in some cases.

What are the causes of metatarsalgia?

Metatarsalgia symptoms may be caused by anything that adds extra load or pressure to the ball of the foot. Common causes include:

  • Wearing high heels
  • Wearing thin soled shoes
  • Standing for long periods
  • Certain foot types including flat feet
  • High impact sports
  • Age (the protective fat pad may be displaced or may atrophy with age)


Podiatry treatment of metatarsalgia

Anyone experiencing forefoot pain should consult a podiatrist for an assessment as soon as possible. Untreated metatarsalgia may lead to a stress fracture in some cases. Your podiatrist will prescribe a treatment plan that may include:

  • Reduction of pressure with padding and orthotics
  • Modification of activity
  • Footwear recommendation