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Metatarsalgia
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Metatarsalgia

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Metatarsalgia a common foot disorder that can affect the bones and joints at the ball of the foot. Your ego used to be the only thing that got bruised during pickup basketball games. But lately, the jump's gone out of your jump shot - you can still leap, but landing is pure torture. What's more, running and even walking cause the same burning pain on the bottoms of your feet. If this sounds familiar, you may have metatarsalgia - a condition marked by pain and inflammation in the ball of your foot.

Metatarsalgia frequently affects runners and other athletes who participate in high-impact sports. That's because excessive amounts of running or jumping put extra stress on the metatarsals - the long bones located in the front part of your feet just below your toes. People with certain foot shapes that create more stress on the metatarsal bones also may have these problems.

Risk factors

Almost anyone can develop metatarsalgia, but you're at higher risk if you:

  • Are athletic. You're especially at risk if you're a runner or participate in other sports that involve running or jumping, such as soccer, tennis, baseball, football and basketball. Swimming and cycling, which don't put pressure on your forefoot, aren't likely to cause metatarsalgia.

  • Wear high heels or shoes that don't fit properly. High heels transfer extra weight onto the front of your foot, and shoes that are too tight can compress your toes, affecting foot mechanics. Wearing athletic shoes that aren't well padded or that aren't appropriate for a particular sport — for example, playing basketball in tennis shoes — also can put you at risk of metatarsalgia.

  • Weigh more than is healthy. Extra pounds mean more weight is transferred to your metatarsals.

  • Have other foot problems. Certain foot shapes, such as high arches, a long second toe or unusually long metatarsals, can all contribute to metatarsalgia. So can other conditions such as hammertoe, Morton's neuroma, arthritis and even gout. These can cause pain and inflammation that change the way you walk and the distribution of weight in your feet.

When to seek medical advice

Not all foot problems need medical care. Sometimes your feet simply ache after a long day of standing or a punishing workout. But it's best not to ignore any foot pain that lasts more than a few days. If you experience a burning pain in the ball of your foot that's not improving, even after changing your shoes and modifying your activities, see your doctor.

Screening and diagnosis

A number of foot problems can cause symptoms similar to those of metatarsalgia. To help pinpoint the source of your pain, your doctor will examine your foot and ask about your lifestyle and activity level. You may also have an X-ray to help rule out a stress fracture or other foot problems.

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