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The Many Causes of Pain in the Ball of the Foot

Step, ouch! Step, ouch! Step, ouch! If you’re experiencing pain with every step, it’s time you made your way to Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists to find out why. Pain in the ball of the foot can be brought on by a number of different reasons. Once you know the cause, you can get back to doing the two step, stepping it up, stepping out—you get the picture.

Metatarsal Misery

Metatarsalgia is a general term for inflammation usually resulting from ill-fitting shoes or strenuous activity. Take a load off for a while and change to some comfy shoes. You might even look into some orthotics that will help redistribute your weight and take pressure off of the affected area. Variations of this condition include:

Inferior Metatarsal Bursitis—Bursas are fluid-filled sacs that act as cushions between your bones. When these sacs become inflamed, you suffer from bursitis. Metatarsal bursitis involves the bones that connect your toes to your feet, so pain is felt with every step you take.

Lesser Metatarsal Overload Syndrome—chronic inflammation as a result of continuous stress on the metatarsal joints.

A Case of Capsulitis

Capsulitis occurs when the ligaments around a toe joint become inflamed. These ligaments form a “capsule” that help the toe joint move, so if they’re inflamed, movement is painful. This happens mostly in the second toe and can be caused by structural issues that put an excessive amount of pressure on the ball of the foot. Such issues include a second toe that is larger than the big toe, an unstable arch, a severe bunion, or a tight calf muscle. This is a progressive condition, so it’s important to catch it early. If you suddenly feel like you’re walking on a bunched up sock or experiencing pain and swelling that make it difficult to walk or wear shoes, seek a podiatrist’s help as soon as possible. Treatments typically involve rest, ice, anti-inflammatory medications, shoe modifications, and orthotic inserts that can help correct foot position.

If the second toe starts moving toward the big toe, the condition has progressed to the point where surgery will need to be considered to restore the toe to its normal position.

Nagging Neuroma

Morton’s Neuroma typically occurs between the bases of the third and fourth toes. It happens when tissues thicken around the nerves there. This causes pain in the ball of the foot, as well as tingling and numbness. Women who wear high heels or shoes that pinch are most susceptible. Shoe inserts and pain medication can help. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary.

Suffering Sesamoids

Sesamoiditis is a painful condition that occurs when the tendons surrounding your big toe are injured and become inflamed. Rest and ice can help ease the pain. You can try using foot pads in your shoes as well.

Narrowing Down the Causes

Many other factors can cause pain in this one area of your foot. Here are a few:

Intense training – Track and field participants are the most common group to put a lot of stress on the ball of the foot, in addition to dancers and football, tennis, soccer, and baseball players.

Your job – Office workers whose dress code demands hours in heels, or workers who spend time on ladders or crouching on their haunches, like a house painter or a baseball catcher, are all at risk.

Foot deformities – Those who already have bunionshammertoes, or claw toes are very prone to ball of foot pain.

Foot injuries – A stress fracture in one of your foot bones can cause metatarsalgia, as can Morton’s neuroma, a swelling of the nerve between your third and fourth toes.

Your shoes – Even if everything else in your feet is normal, cramming them into shoes that don’t fit your foot shape, or high heels that put pressure on the metatarsal heads, can lead to pain in the ball of your foot.

Pain in the ball of the foot can affect every move you make, which pretty much puts a damper on your day-to-day activities, much less your participation in sports. Figuring out what is causing the pain is key to resolving it as quickly as possible.

Step on it! Get to Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists in Austin Texas today. Call (512) 328-8900 for an appointment with Dr. Craig H. Thomajan DPM, FACFAS or Dr. Shine John, DPM, FACFAS. They will assess your problem and recommend the best treatment for you.

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Dr. Shine John, DPM, FACFAS
Podiatric Physician, Surgeon, Specialist at Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists