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Metatarsalgia is the medical term used to describe pain and inflammation in the ball of the foot. The metatarsal heads are the bones you push off of when taking a step. A change in the distribution of weight on the metatarsals increases pressure on the bones, particularly the heads of the bones that connect with the toes. When a metatarsal head is pushed downwards, below the level of the other metatarsal heads, it is subjected to the full weight of the body at each step. Such abnormal pressure will eventually induce a painful inflammatory response.
Some common causes include:
Symptoms usually develop gradually, but sometimes there can be a sudden onset of pain ranging from mild to severe and from aching to sharp, in the ball of the foot.
Both custom and prefabricated foot orthoses, depending on your foot mechanics, are recommended for the treatment of metatarsalgia. Having a good supportive longitudinal arch support increases the weight bearing surface and deflects pressure away from the ball of the foot. Proper placement of the metatarsal dome functions to elevate the dropped metatarsal heads again reducing the pressure over this area. In cases where there is a reduced fat pad adding a cushioning component to the orthoses is a necessity.