Various foot problems can cause symptoms similar to those of metatarsalgia. To help pinpoint the source of your pain, your doctor will examine your foot while you stand and while you sit and ask about your lifestyle and activity level. You might need an X-ray to identify or rule out a stress fracture or other foot problems.
Conservative measures — such as resting, changing shoes or using a metatarsal pad — might be all you need to relieve signs and symptoms.
In rare cases, when conservative measures don't relieve your pain and your metatarsalgia is complicated by foot conditions such as hammertoe, surgery to realign the metatarsal bones might be an option.
Lifestyle and home remedies
To help ease your metatarsalgia pain, try these tips:
- Rest. Protect your foot from further injury by not stressing it. Elevate your foot after standing or walking. You might need to avoid your favorite sport for a while, but you can stay fit with low-impact exercises, such as swimming or cycling.
- Ice the affected area. Apply ice packs to the affected area for about 20 minutes at a time several times a day. To protect your skin, wrap the ice packs in a thin towel.
- Take an over-the-counter pain reliever. Try ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), naproxen sodium (Aleve) or aspirin to reduce pain and inflammation.
- Wear proper shoes. Avoid too-tight or too-loose shoes and limit your wearing of high heels. Wear shoes appropriate to the sports you play.
- Use metatarsal pads. These off-the-shelf pads are placed in your shoes just ahead of the metatarsal bone to help deflect stress from the painful area.
Consider arch supports. If insoles don't help, your doctor might recommend arch supports to minimize stress on the metatarsal bones and improve foot function. You can buy arch supports over-the-counter, or they can be custom fitted.
Preparing for your appointment
You'll either see your family doctor or general practitioner or be referred to a bone specialist (orthopedist) or a foot specialist (podiatrist).
Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment.
What you can do
Make a list of:
- Your symptoms, including any that may seem unrelated to your foot pain, and when they began
- Key personal information, including sports you participate in and your medical history
- Questions to ask your doctor
For metatarsalgia, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What's causing my symptoms?
- Do I need tests?
- Is my condition likely temporary or chronic?
- What treatment do you recommend?
- Do I need to restrict my activities?
- Are there brochures or other printed material I can have? What websites do you recommend?
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions, including:
- What type of shoes do you wear?
- What activities do you do?
- Does your daily routine involve a lot of walking or standing?
- Do you often go barefoot? On what types of surfaces?
- Are your symptoms continuous or occasional?
- How severe are your symptoms?
- What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms?
- What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms?
What you can do in the meantime
While you're waiting to see your doctor, rest your foot as much as possible and wear properly fitting shoes. Over-the-counter pain relievers might help ease your discomfort.