Pain in the ball of the foot

Pain in the ball of your foot is known as metatarsalgia. You can usually ease the pain yourself. But see a GP if it does not improve.

How you can ease pain in the ball of your foot yourself

If you see a GP about pain in the ball of your foot, they may suggest you try these things:

Do

  • rest and raise your foot when you can

  • put an ice pack (or bag of frozen peas in a towel) on the painful area for up to 20 minutes every 2 to 3 hours

  • wear shoes with plenty of room for your feet, which have a low heel and soft sole

  • use soft insoles or pads in your shoes

  • try to lose weight if you're overweight

  • try regular, gentle foot and ankle stretching exercises

  • take paracetamol

Don’t

  • do not take ibuprofen for the first 48 hours after an injury

  • do not do any sports or other activity that you think is causing the pain

  • do not walk or stand for long periods

  • do not wear high heels or tight pointy shoes

A pharmacist can help with foot pain

You can ask a pharmacist about:

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

  • pain in the ball of your foot is stopping you doing normal activities
  • the pain is getting worse or keeps coming back
  • the pain has not improved after treating it at home for 2 weeks
  • you have any tingling or loss of sensation in your foot
  • you have diabetes and a foot pain – foot problems can be more serious if you have diabetes

Immediate action required: Go to an urgent treatment centre or A&E if:

  • you have severe pain in the ball of your foot
  • you are not able to walk
  • your foot has changed shape
  • you heard a snap, grinding or popping noise at the time of injury
  • you feel faint, dizzy or sick from the pain

These might be signs of a broken bone after an injury.

What we mean by severe pain
Severe pain:
  • always there and so bad it's hard to think or talk
  • you cannot sleep
  • it's very hard to move, get out of bed, go to the bathroom, wash or dress
Moderate pain:
  • always there
  • makes it hard to concentrate or sleep
  • you can manage to get up, wash or dress
Mild pain:
  • comes and goes
  • is annoying but does not stop you doing daily activities

Common causes of pain in the ball of your foot

Pain in the ball of your foot is often caused by exercise, such as running, wearing shoes that are too tight or a condition such as arthritis.

Some people also have a foot shape that puts extra pressure on the ball of the foot. Hard or cracked skin or a verruca can also cause this type of pain.

Your symptoms might also give you an idea of what's causing your pain.

Symptoms Possible cause
Pain, swelling, bruising, started after intense or repetitive exercise Sprain
Sharp, burning or shooting pain near your toes (ball of your foot), feels like a lump or small stone under your foot Morton's neuroma
Redness and swelling, dull aching pain Bursitis or arthritis
Hard bony lump near the big toe Bunions
Information:

Do not worry if you're not sure what the problem is.

Follow the advice on this page and see a GP if the pain does not get better in 2 weeks.

You can also read about pain in other areas of your foot.

Page last reviewed: 21 March 2022
Next review due: 21 March 2025