Dear Dr. Burk:

I like to exercise before breakfast and have been going running every morning for the past several years. Recently, I have been getting this sharp, burning pain on the balls of my feet, just behind the toes. I stopped running completely and now it hurts just to stand or walk around the house. What can I do about this intense pain in my feet? I really want to get back to running soon.

Dave J, Eagle, ID

Dear Dave,

From the set of symptoms that you have described to me, it sounds possible that you might be suffering from Metatarsalgia. This is a painful condition that can develop over time from regular running or jumping, and wearing shoes that are worn out, the wrong size, or don’t fit comfortably. Even the best running shoes typically wear out after 500 to 600 miles for a serious runner, and 600 to 700 miles for an intermediate runner. Metatarsalgia causes inflammation in the balls of the feet and the sharp, burning pain that you have been experiencing. You should not start running again until your feet have completely healed. Fortunately, this is often not a serious problem, and there are some measures that you can take immediately to relieve the pain and facilitate healing. Here are some easy DIY tips for treating metatarsalgia.

  • Rest your feet and do ice therapy. Take 3 or 4 rest breaks throughout the day and submerge your feet in ice water. Just fill a bucket halfway with an equal mixture of cold water and ice cubes. If you find the ice water treatment to be too intense, try sitting down with your feet elevated. You can apply ice packs wrapped in a thin towel under the soles of your feet. Do either of these ice therapies for up to 20 minutes at a time.
  • Take a pain reliever. Try taking an over-the-counter pain reliever like Advil or Motrin IB once a day to reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Wear comfortable shoes. Try to avoid wearing any shoes that are tight-fitting, or too loose. If you are walking around the house, just wear cotton socks. The best shoes for metatarsalgia provide extra cushioning and support for the arch of the foot.
  • Use metatarsal pads. Metatarsal pads are among the most helpful and least obstructive foot pads that can be used to help heal problems with the balls of the feet. The pads act as shock absorbers and distribute foot pressure when you walk. When you place the pads inside your shoe, make sure they are pressing into the space just behind the balls of the feet, and not directly under the balls of your feet. You should feel much more comfortable when walking.

You will need to try these DIY tips for at least 4 weeks to see if the pain and inflammation in your feet is getting better. If you are not noticing any reduction in symptoms, there could be another underlying problem. Metatarsal pain can sometimes be an indication of a more advanced condition like a stress fracture in the feet, a plantar plate tear, or Mortons neuroma. In any case, if you don’t notice any relief or improvement, or if your symptoms get worse, you will need to make an appointment with a trusted Podiatrist. Continuing metatarsal pain will warrant an X-ray and a thorough examination.

Feel free to contact my office for an appointment. We have experts that are knowledgeable about Metatarsalgia and other foot and ankle conditions that could be causing you pain. We can give you a full diagnosis and treatment plan for complete recovery.

Dr. Roman Burk Podiatrist

Dr. Roman Burk Podiatrist

Dr. Roman Burk is a podiatrist at Rocky Mountain Foot and Ankle. He completed his Doctor of Podiatric Medicine degree from Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 2004. Dr. Burk is accepting new patients.

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