Stopping or preventing pain in the ball-of-foot depends on the cause. Here are 3 main causes:
1. Shoes with Too-High Heels
According to a survey done by the American Podiatric Medical Association, women own an average of nine pairs of high heels. Seventy-one percent of these women say their high heels hurt their feet.
Relief may be just a few steps away, and it doesn’t have to put a cramp in your wardrobe.
• Keep heels 2 inches or lower. Many heels over 2 inches shift your weight forward, adding to the pressure on the ball-of-foot.
• Have plenty of padding in the front of your shoe. Many heels already come pre-padded, but if yours are lacking, you can add your own cushions and pads.
• Give your toes room to wiggle. The front of your shoe is also called a “toe box”. Make sure it’s wide enough for your toes to move and doesn’t put any pressure on the outside of your toes, which can result in blisters or calluses.
• Limit the time you spend on your feet. Moderation can be the key to comfort. Experts recommend only standing or walking in your heels two to three hours at a time.
• Choose wedges over stilettos. Shoes with wide, thick heels can give your feet more arch support resulting in less pressure on the ball-of-foot.
High-intensity activities, such as running, add additional force to the ball-of-foot when you land and push off. Simple tips to reduce the effects of this impact include:
• Get the right shoes for your activity. Many people play more than one sport but often wear the same pair of shoes for all. To avoid injury or strain to the ball of your foot, get the right amount of support and padding in the toe of your shoe depending on the movements of your chosen sports.
• Make sure your workout includes your feet. Picking things up with your toes, such as towels or marbles, might not sound like a workout, but it can keep your foot flexible and relieve pain in the ball of your foot. Calf stretching exercises can also help reduce forefoot pain.
• Replace shoes often. Workout shoes can wear out fast, so be sure to check the padding and soles of your shoes often for any wear and tear. Experts suggest replacing running shoes every 300 to 400 miles.
3. Medical Conditions
Your foot pain may stem from a health condition. A few common conditions that can cause foot pain include:
• Diabetes: Over a period of time, poorly controlled diabetes can result in diabetic neuropathy. According to The Neuropathy Association, up to 70% of those with diabetes suffer from this condition. Treatment varies but includes controlling blood sugars, exercising and staying at a healthy weight.
• Arthritis: The foot has 33 joints, so it’s no wonder that a joint disease such as arthritis is a common source of pain. Properly treating arthritis, wearing orthotics and staying at a healthy weight can help.
• Morton’s Neuroma: Morton’s neuroma is an inflamed nerve that can lead to sharp, burning pain and numbness in the space between the 3rd and 4th toes. Shoes with a lower heel and wider toe box and orthotics with a metatarsal pad can help reduce pain from Morton’s neuroma.
• Obesity: Extra weight means extra pressure on the ball-of-foot. In a 2012 survey done by the Institute for Preventive Foot Health, 51% of those who were “very overweight,” which is a BMI over 30, had fair to poor foot health, with 40% currently suffering from a foot problem.
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FootSmart: “Ball of Foot Pain (Metatarsalgia)”
American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society: “How to Keep Your Feet Flexible”
The Neuropathy Association: “Neuropathy in U.S. is Skyrocketing”
American Podiatric Medical Association: “Arthritis”
Institute for Preventive Foot Health: “National Foot Assessment 2012” http://www.ipfh.org/images/research_materials/2012_National_Foot_Health_Assessment_June_2012.pdf
Today Show: How to Properly Wear (and Recover From) High Heeled Shoes”