Dear doctor, the ball of my foot is causing me pain when I walk. What can I do?

15 August 2017

Q: I’m a keen walker but the ball of my foot is causing me pain when I walk. What is causing the pain and what can I do about it?

A: Pain under the ball of the foot, or ‘metatarsalgia’ as it is often known, can have a number of causes. It is usually because this area of the foot has been taking excessive pressure, which can be due to wearing thin soled shoes - meaning there is not enough padding under that area of the foot.

It can also happen if the big toe is painful and in an attempt to reduce the pressure going through the big toe you might put more pressure through the ball of the foot. Tightness of the calf muscle can also cause it.

If the overload of the front of the foot persists it can lead to synovitis (inflammation) of one of the joints, a so called Morton’s neuroma (not all of these are painful) or possibly a stress fracture.

The following may help relieve some of the pain:

  • Rest
  • Well cushioned shoes
  • Wider shoes
  • Regular achilles (calf muscle) stretching exercises
  • Anti-inflammatory tablets (take with food and stop if any stomach problems arise)
  • Simple insoles with a ‘metatarsal dome’ which can be bought on the high street or over the internet.

If simple measures don’t help then customised insoles, injections or surgery may be required. Hence it is important to make an accurate diagnosis which is obtained by taking a detailed history, clinical examination and where appropriate x-rays and possibly ultrasound or MRI scans.

If you are concerned, your doctor can arrange for you to be seen and investigated appropriately.

Mr Billy Jowett is a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon practising at Spire Portsmouth Hospital.


The content of this article is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the professional medical advice of your doctor or other health care professional.

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