Runners sometimes develop pain under the balls of the feet, a condition called metatarsalgia. The bones underneath the feet are called metatarsals. The impact from running can place pressure on the ends of these bones, resulting in foot pain. Extensive running can lead to ligament injuries and joint irritation in the feet. Some other types of foot injuries are plantar fascitis, which is inflammation of the band of tissue that runs from the heel along the arch of the foot. A heel spur is a hook of bone that forms on the heel bone or calcaneus.
Signs and Symptoms
The following are signs of metatarsalgia: a dull ache in the ball of the foot, pain that forces you to walk on the outside of the foot instead of on the ball, formation of callouses and the inability to walk barefoot because of extreme pain.
Causes and Prevention
Overuse injuries and running on surfaces that do not absorb shock are some causes of foot pain. However, wearing the wrong sneakers is one of the leading causes of foot pain for runners. Wear sneakers that provide support, have a wide toe box and avoid high, thick heels. Going to a store that specializes in selling running sneakers is highly recommended. Spend time with the sales person because he might ask questions or even perform a running analysis in order to determine your running style. This will help him select the sneaker that best suits you. Your running sneakers should be a half to one full size bigger than your regular shoes to provide room for your feet because they can swell when running. One rule of thumb is to replace your running sneakers every 300 to 400 miles because they lose cushioning, stability and shock absorption. Shoe inserts such as metatarsal pads are recommended as well.
Metatarsalgia pain often responds well to rest, ice, compression and elevation, or RICE. This method can help alleviate pain and reduce swelling while preventing further injury. Rest and allow your foot to begin healing by taking a few days off from running. Icing the area with an ice pack or a package of frozen vegetables can be helpful. The area should be iced upon early detection of pain. Compress the ball of the foot by wrapping it with an ace bandage. This will provide relief from the pain and limit the amount of swelling that can occur. Elevate your foot by keeping it propped above the heart using pillows.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are another form of at-home treatment. Medication such as Motrin, Aleve and ibuprofren are some NSAIDs that can be purchased over the counter. Contact your physician If your foot pain persists or worsens and the RICE method does not work. He might decide that you need custom orthotics to take the weight off the balls of your feet.
If you participate in high-impact sports, you are at high risk of foot injuries. Runners usually experience the most trauma to the feet, but many others who are physically active can also be exposed to foot injuries.
- "Principles of Athletic Training"; William E. Prentice; 2010
- Mayo Clinic: Metatarsalgia