Metatarsalgia doesn’t discriminate. It affects people of all ages, sizes, and foot characteristics, from flat-footed to high arches. Most people will notice the ball of their foot slowly becoming more uncomfortable. Jogging or running on certain surfaces can cause a sharp increase in pain.
The reason why is because this particular area of your foot experiences a great deal of shock, especially when you run, jump, or jog. Studies have found that runners generate pressure with each strike ranging from three to four times their body weight. It’s up to our feet, particularly our metatarsals, to act as shock absorbers.
An imbalance of weight, uneven ground, or improper form when exercising can cause inflammation of the metatarsals; due to all the load-bearing and impact the bones experience. Repetitive shock to the foot causes metatarsalgia; does that mean runners are at risk?
Can Running Cause Metarsalgia?
If you haven’t guessed, running is a leading cause of metatarsalgia. As is jumping and other activities in which your foot repetitively strikes the ground.
But not all runners experience this condition. Multiple factors can affect whether or not you’re at risk of developing metatarsalgia.
Common Causes of Metatarsalgia
- Very strenuous training or a sudden increase in activity.
Our bodies don’t respond well to sudden, intense changes. Spending more time pounding the pavement can irritate your metatarsals and give them less time to adjust.
- Poorly fitting or worn down shoes.
Shoes that don’t provide support, either because it’s broken down with wear or don’t fit right, mean that your metatarsals receive the brunt of the impact. Those who wear high heels, work boots, and tight-fitting fashion shoes can also experience acute metatarsalgia.
- Foot deformities or unusual foot shapes.
Hammer Toes can predispose someone to metatarsalgia. This is because of more significant pressure on the bones of the feet. People with metatarsalgia will often have a callus on the ball of the foot.
- Excess weight.
Increased weight means the metatarsals take on more pressure and impact, especially when jogging or running.
- Stress fractures of the metatarsals.
Stress fractures are tiny hairline breaks in the bones. Naturally, these fractures cause irritation and pain, sometimes combined with metatarsalgia.
- Certain health conditions like Morton’s neuroma.
Morton’s neuroma is when the tissue around a nerve in the ball of the foot thickens. It can lead to symptoms of metatarsalgia, like the feeling of a pebble in the shoe and actual irritation of the metatarsals.
- Improper running form.
If you don’t have the best running shoes for metatarsalgia pain, then overpronation and metatarsalgia often go hand in hand. When you overpronate, the ankle rolls inwards, weakening the front of the foot while putting excess pressure on the bones. This can lead to metatarsalgia, but the condition can also cause you to change your gait further, resulting in other foot, ankle, and leg pain.
Many times, it’s a culmination of these risk factors that can lead to metatarsalgia. Such as running sprints on the pavement while wearing old shoes with little to no support or starting a new exercise program to lose excess weight.
Distance runners are usually more prone to metatarsalgia than sprinters or your average jogger. Additionally, those with a high arch, a hammertoe, or who build up calluses on the ball of their feet can be predisposed to metatarsalgia. Runners who overpronate often report metatarsalgia issues.
Combating the Condition
While some of these things may be unavoidable, such as hammertoe, other factors can be corrected. Even if you have a high arch, choosing the correct shoe type equipped with the proper support can significantly decrease your risk of pain. Monitoring your form and slowly increasing your mileage is also helpful.
Sidelining yourself isn’t always necessary, though rest can be a beneficial treatment. In most cases, learning and remedying the root cause of the problem, such as replacing worn-out shoes, can get you back on your feet!
Next, we’re going to take a look at how long it takes to recover from metatarsalgia. You will see that the time very much depends on severity level of your condition, but we will give you some ways for you to check and then make your own judgement.