Metatarsalgia, sometimes known as stone bruise, is a condition of the foot that affects the metatarsals, which are the five bones that run the length of the foot and connect to the toes. Metatarsalgia is characterized by inflammation and pain in the ball of the foot, and numbness or tingling of the toes. Although not a serious condition, it can cause a great amount of discomfort, and can reduce quality of life. Metatarsalgia is typically diagnosed by ruling out other foot disorders or injuries, such as stress fractures, through the use of an X-ray. In addition, a doctor will examine the foot and ask questions concerning discomfort, activity levels and other lifestyle factors that may contribute to metatarsalgia.
Causes of Metatarsalgia
Although this condition can sometimes be due to one factor only, metatarsalgia is more often caused by a combination of factors, including the following:
- Increased Physical Activity
Participants of high-impact sports, such as running, are at high risk for developing metatarsalgia. This is because the front of the foot is strongly impacted by the force of running and other high-impact physical activities.
- Shape of the Foot
Certain foot shapes, such as high-arched feet and those with second toes longer than the first, can but increased pressure on the metatarsals.
- Excess Body Weight
During movement, most of the body weight is transferred to the forefoot, which puts increased pressure on the metatarsals. Excess body weight equals excess pressure on the metatarsals.
Bunions are characterized by painful swelling at the base of the big toe. This pain weakens the toe, and reduces the amount of pressure it can receive. This puts excess pressure on the ball of the foot, which can often lead to metatarsalgia.
- Ill-Fitting Shoes
High heels, shoes that are too small, pinch the toes, do not provide proper support or are otherwise uncomfortable are a common cause, especially in women.
Hammertoe is a condition that usually arises from shoes that pinch the toes or prevent feet from lying flat. This puts excess pressure on the metatarsals, and can often lead to metatarsalgia.
Symptoms of Metatarsalgia
Although symptoms of metatarsalgia typically develop slowly over a period of time, they can also occur suddenly. Sudden symptoms are usually the result of recent running or other high-impact physical activity. Symptoms include the following:
- Aching or sharp, burning pain in the balls of the feet
- Toe pain, typically in and around the second, third, and/or fourth toes
- Numbness or tingling of the toes
- Increased pain due to standing, walking or running
- Increased pain when feet are flexed
- Increased pain when walking barefoot
Metatarsalgia can often be treated through the use of conservative methods, including the following:
- Ice packs
- Over-the-counter analgesics, such as Tylenol or Advil
- Metatarsal pads
- Arch support insoles
Metatarsalgia can often be prevented through the following methods:
- Wearing shoes that fit properly and don’t pinch the toes. The ideal shoe in the prevention metatarsalgia is one with adequate space for toes, arch cushion and support, and a flat, cushioned sole that will evenly distribute weight.
- Maintaining a healthy weight as to not place too much pressure on the feet.
- Arch support insoles. These products can help prevent metatarsalgia, as well as treat the pain associated with this condition.
- Taking care when performing high-impact physical activities, or switching to a low-impact alternative, such as walking, biking or swimming.
The following products may help in both the prevention and treatment of metatarsalgia:
- Metatarsal Lift Pads: http://www.footsmart.com/P-Metatarsal-Lift-Pads-40122.aspx?c=None
- Metatarsal Cushions: http://www.footsmart.com/P-Powerstep-Metatarsal-Cushion-40113.aspx?c=None
- Metatarsal Support Pads: http://www.footsmart.com/P-Pedag-T-Form-Arch-Supports-2-Pair-97376.aspx?c=None