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Treating Metatarsalgia

Metatarsalgia is pain in the "ball of your foot," the area between your arch and your toes. The pain usually starts in 1 or more of the 5 bones in this area under the toes. These bones are called the metatarsals. The metatarsals become inflamed. This causes the pain. Often, a callus builds up in this area. Calluses are a flat, widespread thickening of the outer layer of skin. In most cases, wearing low-heeled, well-cushioned shoes and filing down the callus will ease the pain. If these steps don’t work, you may need to do exercises or have surgery to remove part of the bone. To take pressure off the ball of your foot and ease the pain, your healthcare provider may suggest that you do one or more of the following.

Wear shoes with padded soles

Wear shoes with thick padding in the soles. Keep heels low. Make sure the shoe is wide across the ball of your foot and your toes. Don't wear shoes that don't fit well.

Using a metatarsal pad

Put a metatarsal pad in your shoe. This lifts and takes pressure off the painful area. To insert the pad:

  • Put a small lipstick mark on the callus.

  • Step into the shoe to leave a mark on the insole.

  • Peel the backing off the pad. Then put the pad in the shoe just behind the lipstick mark.

You may also be able to find inserts with built-in metatarsal pads.

Side view of foot in shoe showing metatarsal pad and callus.

Filing the callus

  1. Soak your foot in warm water for a few minutes to soften the skin.

  2. Dry the foot.

  3. Gently rub the callus with a pumice stone or nail file to remove the hard skin. Stop if bleeding or pain occurs.

If you have diabetes, see your diabetes healthcare provider for foot care.

Online Medical Reviewer: Louise Cunningham RN BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Turley Jr PA-C
Online Medical Reviewer: Thomas N Joseph MD
Date Last Reviewed: 7/1/2021
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