How Do You Relieve Pain in the Ball of Your Foot?

Medically Reviewed on 10/31/2022
How Do You Relieve Pain in the Ball of Your Foot
Home remedies that can help relieve ball of foot pain include rest, ice packs, elevation, and over-the-counter pain relievers

Pain in the ball of the foot can typically be relieved with home remedies such as rest, ice application, elevation, and over-the-counter pain relievers. Severe cases may require surgery.

Home remedies that can help relieve ball of foot pain include:

  • Getting adequate rest
  • Applying ice packs to the affected area for minutes at a time several times a day
  • Elevating the foot after prolonged standing or walking
  • Taking over-the-counter pain relievers such as Advil (ibuprofen) or Aleve (naproxen sodium to reduce pain and inflammation
  • Using a pumice stone on the foot to help remove calluses
  • Using metatarsal pads in your shoes to help reduce stress on the area
  • Avoiding walking barefoot or in high heels
  • Wearing shoes with supportive soles (shock-absorbing insoles or arch supports) 
  • Avoiding high-intensity sports or training

In some cases, a corticosteroid injection into the affected site or surgery may be necessary to resolve the underlying cause of pain.

Although pain in the ball of the foot is not serious and easily treated with lifestyle modifications, talk to your doctor if your foot pain lasts more than a few days or if the pain does not improve even after modifying your activities.

What does pain in the ball of the foot feel like?

The primary symptom of metatarsalgia is pain under the ball of the foot with or without bruising and swelling or inflammation.

Other symptoms may develop over time, including:

  • Sharp, aching, or burning pain in the foot
  • Pain in the foot aggravated by standing, running, or walking
  • Numbness or tingling in the toes
  • Feeling as of having a pebble in your shoe

Untreated metatarsalgia can lead to hammertoes—a condition in which the toe buckles cause the middle joint of the affected toe to poke out. This condition may cause limping and pain in other parts of the body, including the hips and lower back.

What causes pain in the ball of the foot?

Pain in the ball of the foot is called metatarsalgia and typically affects the area where the toes attach to the foot. It is termed metatarsalgia because the pain centers under the five bones at the bases of the toes—the metatarsals.

Metatarsalgia can be caused by a variety of factors, such as:

  • Wearing poorly fitting shoes (too tight or loose) or high heels
  • Intense training or activities involving running and jumping
  • Excess weight
  • Congenital foot deformities
  • Sprains
  • Stress fractures
  • Bunions (a protrusion of the bone that forms on the first metatarsophalangeal joint)
  • Morton's neuroma (noncancerous growth of fibrous tissue around a nerve between the third and fourth metatarsals)
  • Rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, or gout 


Common Causes of Foot Pain See Slideshow

What are risk factors for pain in the ball of the foot?

Although anyone can get metatarsalgia, the following people are more at risk of developing the condition:

  • Athletes who participate in high-impact sports 
  • People who spend more time on their forefoot 
  • People with congenital high arches 
  • People with abnormal foot structure (second toe longer than the big toe)
  • People with foot deformities including hammertoes and bunions

How is pain in the ball of the foot diagnosed?

Your doctor will confirm a diagnosis of metatarsalgia by analyzing your symptoms and examining your foot manually.

Tests that may be ordered to rule out other conditions include:

  • X-rays: To rule out stress fractures 
  • Ultrasound or MRI: To examine the soft tissues surrounding the metatarsophalangeal joints
Medically Reviewed on 10/31/2022
Image Source: iStock image

Metatarsalgia. Cleveland Clinic

Metatarsalgia. Mayo Clinic

Foot Pain and Problems. Johns Hopkins Medicine