Your foot contains 26 bones, including five metatarsals. These bones are located at the ball of your foot. Pain in this area can make it difficult to stand and walk.
According to the Mayo Clinic, this painful condition, called metatarsalgia, can be caused by activities such as running or jumping, or as a side effect of foot deformity or wearing improperly sized footwear.
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However, pain in the ball of the foot can also be a sign of a broken bone, as explained by the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons. See a doctor for a diagnosis before you perform metatarsalgia treatment exercises.
Read more: Exercises After Metatarsal Fracture
1. Calf Stretching Exercises
According to a June 2016 article published by Orthopaedics & Traumatology Surgery & Research, tight calf muscles can contribute to the development of metatarsalgia. Calf stretches, as demonstrated by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, can help.
Hold each stretch for 30 seconds, and repeat three times. Do not stretch to the point of pain — but some discomfort is to be expected.
Move 1: Wall Stretch
- Stand facing the wall or a sturdy surface such as a countertop.
- Place your hands against the surface in front of you for support.
- Step your affected leg back about 2 feet.
- Keeping your back heel on the ground and knee straight, slowly lean your weight over your front knee until you feel a stretch in your calf.
- Repeat this stretch with your back knee bent to target deeper calf muscles.
Move 2: Towel Calf Stretch
- Sit with your leg out straight.
- Loop a towel around the ball of your foot and hold one end in each hand.
- Gently pull the ends of the towel to bring your toes toward your body.
2. Metatarsal Arch Exercises
Strengthening the muscles on the bottom of your foot will help support your painful metatarsals. Include metatarsal arch exercises in your workout.
Move 1: Towel Curls
- Sit with your foot on the ground, without a shoe or sock on.
- Place a small towel on the ground in front of your foot.
- Grab the towel with your toes and curl it toward you.
- Continue along the length of the towel.
- Repeat three times.
Read more: Arch-Building Exercises for Flat Feet
Move 2: Marble Transfer
- Place a group of about 20 marbles on the floor next to your foot.
- Grab one marble at a time with your foot and transfer them to the side.
- Repeat twice.
Consider Other Interventions
In addition to metatarsalgia treatment exercises, try other home remedies to help decrease your pain. Your doctor or physical therapist might also suggest a change in footwear or using a metatarsal pad or arch supports as well, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Move 1: Golf Ball Massage
- Place a golf ball on the floor with the ball of your foot resting on top of it.
- Gently press down and then roll the ball along your arch for about two minutes.
Move 2: Water Bottle Ice Pack
- Freeze a small plastic bottle of water.
- Lay the bottle on the ground, on its side, perpendicular to your foot.
- Gently press down on it with your foot; then roll the bottle along your arch for two minutes.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.