You want to get out and enjoy our wonderful weather, but it feels like you're walking on hot coals or pebbles. Ouch!

As a Seattle podiatrist, I don’t think you’re from a weird cult or strange. The pain and pebble-like feeling mean you probably have a condition called metatarsalgia (pronounced (met-uh-tahr-SAL-juh). I know it sounds bad, but don’t worry it’s a common foot problem. Metatarsalgia is an inflammation of the ball of the foot.

Symptoms of Metatarsalgia

Here are common symptoms of this condition. You're more likely to notice the symptoms more when you’re active and less so when you lay off your feet.

  • Pain in the ball of the foot during weight-bearing exercises such as walking, running, or standing. It typically centers on one or more of the five bones (metatarsals) in the mid-portion of the foot.
  • Sharp or shooting pain and pain when toes are flexed
  • Tingling or numbness of the toes
  • Callus formation under the affected joint
  • Feeling like you have a stone or pebble in your shoe or a bunched-up sock
  • Needing to adjust your walk to avoid putting pressure on the ball of the foot

What Causes Metatarsalgia?

Metatarsalgia develops when something alters the foot biomechanics causing more pressure on the ball of the foot. The following can put a person at high risk for this condition.

  • Having a high-arched foot or a very long bone in your toe.

  • Overpronation and/or flat feet

  • Running or another high-impact sport

  • Hiking

  • Foot conditions such as bunions, hammertoes, stress fractures, and Morton’s Neuroma can make it more likely to occur.

  • Women - shoes that are too pointy, too high, or with a tight toe box.

  • Men – rigid-soled work boots

  • Wearing flip flops too often (no shock absorption)

  • Working on hard surfaces – cashiers, construction workers, road workers

  • Overweight (increases pressure on the ball of the foot)

Treatment for Metatarsalgia in Seattle

Treatments that can be done at the office or at home:

At the Office:

  • Initially your podiatrist will tape the ball of your foot to offload weight to that area.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory or a cortisone injection.
  • MLS laser therapy to help decrease pain and inflammation.
  • Orthotics - orthotics can help align your foot properly if you have faulty foot mechanics, preventing overpronation and relieving the pressure from the ball of your foot.
  • Metatarsal pad - this is also used to offload weight to the affected joint or joints. It can be used alone or incorporated into your orthotic

At Home:

  • Rest – as hard as this may be to stop your favorite activity, you’re going to need to sit out the next family hike to heal
  • Apply ice several times a day 
  • Wear Proper Footwear
    • Shoes should have a wide toe box so that your toes have wiggle room.
    • Shoes need to be supportive. Watch our video "How to Test Any Shoe for Stability" before you go shopping.
    • If you're an athlete be sure to purchase new shoes every 500 miles. Also, be sure to purchase shoes for the particularly activity you engage in.
    • Wear shoes that have heels no higher than one inch.
    • In the summer instead of flip flops, wear sandals that have straps so that you aren't using your toes to hold onto the sandal.

Need Relief From Metatarsalgia in Seattle, Washington? Request an Appointment Now

Don't let metatarsalgia or other painful foot conditions cause you to miss out on the activities you enjoy. Complete the contact form on this page or call our office at 206-368-7000 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Berg.

Most new patients are seen within 1-2 week's time. During your initial visit, Dr. Berg will spend up to 30 minutes getting to know you, your podiatry complaints, and your goals so that he can recommend the treatment best meets your needs. Don’t wait—contact us today.

North Seattle Foot & Ankle Specialist Dr. Rion Berg offers compassionate podiatry care for all foot and ankle problems to those living in Seattle Washington and the surrounding areas. Call us today at 206-368-7000 for an immediate appointment or request an appointment online.

Dr. Rion Berg
Connect with me
A podiatrist in North Seattle treating families for over 40 years.
Join The Conversation
Jeanette Payne 09/26/2023 3:07 PM
I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis 3 years ago. I have had minimal flares but after initial and only treatment with steriods, I have felt fairly normal. 6-9 months later the sensation of walking on pebbles began. I feel currently like those pebbles have gotten larger. My neurologist has not commented on this sensation in my feet. He more or less gave me the impression it was normal for MS. I don't have pain. I have an odd and uncomfortable feeling all the time in my feet. Do you think treatment for Metatarsalgia would be helpful? Thank you if you have a chance to reply. Jeanette
Post A Reply
Foot and Ankle Center of Lake City 09/27/2023 12:16 PM
You would need to see a podiatrist to get that diagnosis.
finewater 11/02/2023 4:33 AM
I think your ideas are excellent, and I am very grateful for your sharing. I have benefited enormously from them.
Post A Reply
Post A Comment