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Relief for Metatarsalgia: Treatment Exercises and Stretches

Relief for Metatarsalgia: Treatment Exercises and Stretches

Metatarsalgia is a common condition characterized by pain and inflammation in the ball of the foot. It can be caused by various factors, including excessive pressure on the metatarsal bones, overuse, structural abnormalities, poorly fitting shoes, and certain medical conditions. Incorporating specific exercises and stretches into your routine can significantly alleviate metatarsalgia symptoms and prevent future occurrences. This blog will explore metatarsalgia, its symptoms and causes, and the best exercises and stretches for immediate relief for metatarsalgia.

What is Metatarsalgia?

Metatarsalgia is a painful condition that affects the metatarsal region of the foot, leading to discomfort and inflammation in the ball of the foot. The metatarsals are the long bones located in the front part of the foot, just behind the toes. When these bones are subjected to excessive pressure or stress, it can result in inflammation and pain, commonly referred to as metatarsalgia. This condition can significantly impact your daily activities and quality of life, making it essential to seek effective treatments.

What are the Symptoms of Metatarsalgia?

The symptoms of metatarsalgia can vary in intensity but typically include:

  • Sharp, burning, or aching pain in the ball of the foot: This pain can intensify during weight-bearing activities or when wearing tight shoes.
  • Numbness or tingling in the toes: This can result from nerve compression in the foot.
  • Difficulty walking or bearing weight on the affected foot: Severe pain can make it challenging to perform normal activities.
  • Swelling or inflammation in the metatarsal area: This can be a sign of ongoing irritation and stress on the metatarsals.
  • Increased pain when wearing tight or narrow shoes: Such footwear can exacerbate the condition by adding extra pressure on the metatarsals.

Recognizing these symptoms early and taking appropriate measures can help manage and alleviate the discomfort associated with metatarsalgia.

What Causes Metatarsalgia?

Several factors can contribute to the development of metatarsalgia, including:

  • Excessive pressure or stress on the metatarsal bones: Activities that involve repetitive impact, such as running or jumping, can increase pressure on the metatarsals.
  • Overuse or repetitive stress on the feet: High-impact sports or occupations that require prolonged standing or walking can lead to metatarsalgia.
  • Structural abnormalities in the foot: Conditions like high arches or flat feet can alter the distribution of weight on the foot, leading to metatarsalgia.
  • Wearing poorly fitting or unsupportive shoes: Shoes that are too tight, narrow, or lack proper arch support can contribute to metatarsal stress. High-heeled shoes can also add extra pressure on the ball of the foot.
  • Excess body weight: Carrying extra weight can increase the pressure on the feet, exacerbating metatarsalgia.
  • Injuries or trauma to the foot: Sprains, fractures, or other injuries can result in metatarsal pain. A stress fracture or a broken bone can significantly affect foot health.
  • Certain medical conditions: Rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and other conditions can affect the health and function of the feet, leading to additional stress and foot pain.

Understanding these causes can help in taking preventive measures and choosing appropriate treatments.

How is this Condition Diagnosed?

How is this Condition Diagnosed?

A medical professional can diagnose metatarsalgia based on a thorough examination of the foot, a review of symptoms, and consideration of the patient’s medical history. Diagnostic tests, such as X-rays or MRI scans, may be recommended to rule out other conditions like stress fractures and confirm the diagnosis. Your family doctor or an orthopedic surgeon might also evaluate the range of motion and look for signs of foot deformities.

Treatments for Metatarsalgia

Effective treatments for metatarsalgia include:

  • Rest and Icing: Reducing activity and applying an ice pack can help alleviate pain and inflammation.
  • Medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers or anti-inflammatory drugs can provide pain relief. In some cases, a medical professional might prescribe stronger anti-inflammatories.
  • Footwear Modifications: Wearing supportive shoes with proper arch support and cushioning can reduce pressure on the metatarsals. Using shoe inserts or metatarsal pads can offer extra cushioning and support. Shock-absorbing insoles can also be beneficial.
  • Stretching and Strengthening Exercises: Specific exercises can help relieve pain and prevent recurrence. Metatarsalgia treatment exercises focus on improving muscle coordination and reducing tight muscles.
  • Physical Therapy: A physical therapist can design a customized treatment plan to address metatarsalgia, including a series of exercises tailored to your needs.
  • Surgery: In severe cases, surgical intervention, such as bunion surgery, may be necessary to correct structural issues or remove inflamed tissues.

How Stretching and Strengthening Exercises Relieve Metatarsalgia Pain

Incorporating stretching and strengthening metatarsalgia exercises into your routine can play a crucial role in managing and relieving metatarsalgia pain. These exercises help improve flexibility, strengthen the muscles around the metatarsals, and reduce stress on the foot. Regular exercise can enhance body awareness and promote foot health.

Exercises for Metatarsalgia

Exercises for metatarsalgia play a crucial role in managing and relieving the pain associated with this condition. By incorporating specific strengthening exercises into your daily routine, you can improve muscle coordination, enhance foot stability, and reduce the stress placed on your metatarsals. These exercises not only provide immediate relief but also help prevent future episodes of metatarsalgia, allowing you to maintain an active and pain-free lifestyle.

Toe Curls

Toe curls involve curling your toes toward the sole of your foot, which helps strengthen the key muscles in the arch and improve flexibility. Perform multiple scrunches per foot daily to see the best results.

Marble Pickups

Place several marbles on the floor and use your toes to pick them up and place them in a container. This exercise enhances toe strength and coordination, crucial for maintaining foot stability during physical activities.

Towel Scrunches

Lay a towel flat on the floor and use your toes to scrunch it up. Towel scrunches help strengthen the muscles in the arch and improve foot stability, making it easier to return to normal activities without pain.

Calf Raises

Stand on the edge of a step with your heels hanging off. Raise your heels as high as possible, then lower them back down. Calf raises strengthen the calf muscles and improve foot and ankle stability, which is essential for weight-bearing activities.

Resistance Band Abductions

Sit with your legs extended and a resistance band looped around your feet. Spread your feet apart against the resistance of the band. This exercise strengthens the muscles on the outside of the foot and improves balance, reducing the risk of extra pressure on the metatarsals.

Heel Raises

Stand with your feet hip-width apart and slowly raise your heels off the ground, then lower them back down. Heel raises strengthen the muscles in the lower leg and improve foot stability, which can help prevent future foot conditions.

Stretches for Metatarsalgia

Stretches for Metatarsalgia

Stretches for metatarsalgia are essential for alleviating pain and improving foot flexibility. Incorporating these stretches into your routine can help reduce inflammation, enhance your range of motion, and provide immediate relief from the discomfort associated with metatarsalgia. By regularly practicing these targeted stretches, you can support your foot health and prevent future flare-ups.

Plantar Fascia Stretch

Sit with one leg crossed over the other. Hold the toes of the top foot and gently pull them back toward your shin. This stretch targets the plantar fascia and helps relieve tension, promoting better blood flow and reducing recovery time.

Achilles Tendon Stretch

Stand facing a wall with one foot in front of the other. Bend the front knee while keeping the back leg straight and the heel on the ground. This stretch targets the Achilles tendon and calf muscles, improving flexibility and reducing tight muscles.

Calf Stretch

Stand with your hands against a wall and one foot behind the other. Keep the back leg straight and press the heel into the ground to stretch the calf muscles. This stretch is beneficial for maintaining a full range of motion in the foot and ankle.

Metatarsal Stretch

Sit with your legs extended and use your hands to gently bend the toes backward, stretching the metatarsal region. This stretch helps alleviate tension and improves flexibility in the ball of the foot.

Toe Stretch

Sit with your legs extended and use your hands to gently pull the toes upward, stretching the muscles and ligaments in the toes. This stretch can help relieve pain and improve overall foot function.

IT Band Stretch

Stand with one leg crossed over the other and lean to the side, stretching the iliotibial band along the outside of the thigh. This stretch helps reduce tension in the legs and improves balance, which can prevent additional stress on the feet.


Metatarsalgia can be a painful and debilitating condition, but with the right exercises and stretches, you can find immediate relief and prevent future flare-ups. By incorporating these simple yet effective movements into your routine, you can improve foot strength, flexibility, and overall health. Remember, wearing proper shoes and maintaining a healthy weight are essential for preventing metatarsalgia and other foot conditions.

At Backcountry Physical Therapy, we specialize in providing comprehensive solutions for foot injuries, including metatarsalgia. Our expert team uses cutting-edge techniques in physical therapy to deliver personalized care that targets the root cause of your pain. With a focus on effective treatments and preventative strategies, we help you achieve immediate relief and long-term foot health. Whether you’re dealing with the aftermath of running-related injuries or everyday discomfort, Backcountry Physical Therapy is committed to restoring your mobility and enhancing your quality of life. Learn more about our physical therapy services and how we can help you overcome foot injuries today.


How does metatarsalgia go away?

Metatarsalgia can improve with proper treatment, including rest, ice packs, medications, and targeted exercises. Wearing supportive footwear and addressing any underlying causes is also essential. In some cases, soft insoles or metatarsal pads can provide additional cushioning, helping to relieve pain.

What makes metatarsalgia worse?

Wearing tight or unsupportive shoes, engaging in high-impact activities without proper footwear, and neglecting to address underlying foot issues can exacerbate metatarsalgia. Activities that place extra pressure on the metatarsals, such as running on hard surfaces or wearing high-heeled shoes, can also worsen the condition.

What happens if you ignore metatarsalgia?

Ignoring metatarsalgia can lead to chronic pain, further foot complications, and decreased mobility. It’s important to seek treatment to prevent long-term issues and maintain your quality of life. Untreated metatarsalgia can result in the development of additional foot conditions, such as stress fractures or bunions, which may require more invasive medical treatment.

a man standing with his arms crossed in front of him.

Dr. Scott Runyon

Backcountry Physical Therapy

We Help Mountain Athletes Not Only Recover From Injuries, But Build Them Back Stronger Than They Were Before, So That Injuries Are Less Likely To Happen Again!