Your "metatarsals" are the five longest bones in your foot that stretch from the small ankle and foot base bones forward to the five "phalanges", which are the toe bones. "Metatarsalgia" is pain in one or more of these long metatarsal bones from too much pressure on the bone and surrounding tissues.
How does metatarsalgia occur?
Metatarsalgia usually occurs from overuse of the metatarsal bones due to heavy activity such as running, jumping, or walking. Metatarsalgia can also develop from wearing a new pair of shoes (particularly high-heeled shoes that put your foot at an unusual angle), from excessive weight from pregnancy or obesity, or from rheumatoid arthritis. The metatarsals in some people's feet are shaped so that they have more of a tendency to develop metatarsalgia than others.
What are the signs and symptoms of metatarsalgia?
Metatarsalgia is painful directly over the long bones of the foot. They can be painful to touch, and when putting pressure on the feet while walking or running.
How is metatarsalgia diagnosed?
To diagnose metatarsalgia, your doctor will examine your foot and ask you some questions about the history of your foot pain. Metatarsalgia is not caused by a break in the bones, so it can't show up on an x-ray. Your doctor may have an x-ray taken of your foot to look for other problems such as broken bones that may be causing your pain.
How is metatarsalgia treated?
Your doctor will probably first recommend that you restrict the activities that likely caused the metatarsalgia pain, which may include running, brisk walking, or any activity that strains the bones of the foot. To keep your activity level up while your tissues heal, you may need to swim, bike, row, or focus on sports that are not weight-bearing on your feet.
Your doctor may suggest that you wear more cushioned shoes, or try a special padding under the tender area of your foot to give extra cushioning to the bones. Orthotic devices (custom shoe supports for your arches) may also help adjust the position of your foot in shoes to change the distribution of pressure on your bones. To help prevent the pain associated with metatarsalgia, your doctor may recommend non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (such as ibuprofen).