3 Ways to Manage Ball of Foot Pain

You never know much your feet mean to you until they hurt. Once they do, you realize the beating they take and the care that they require. Pain in the ball of the foot, or metatarsalgia, can be especially difficult to treat. (Trust me – I know first-hand.) Several conditions can cause pain in the ball of foot including sesamoiditis, Morton’s neuroma, dropped metatarsal heads, and loss of the sole’s fat pad. Fortunately, several devices exist to manage the discomfort and maintain your mobility.

Metatarsal and Dancer’s Pads

One simple and inexpensive way to alleviate aching in the ball of the foot is to use a metatarsal pad. Metatarsal pads distribute weight bearing throughout the foot and cushion the ball of the foot. They are available at drug stores and online vendors that specialize in shoes and orthotics. Metatarsal pads come in several varieties. Some are made of felt while others consist of gel. The pain sufferer can either affix the pads to the inside of the shoe or directly on the ball of the foot. Those that affix to the insole of the shoe usually can’t be transferred shoe to shoe because the adhesive will lose strength. However, pads that stick to the foot itself can be used regardless of footwear. Furthermore, those worn on the foot tend to be reusable and hand-washable.

A special variant of the metatarsal pad is the dancer’s pad. A dancer’s pad is especially useful for those suffering from sesamoiditis because it features a cutout right under the sesamoid bones. The sesamoid bones are located just behind the big toe and can be injured by repetitive actions or heavy impact. The cutout in a dancer’s pad offloads, or removes weight bearing, from the injured sesamoid bones. Despite their moniker, anyone can wear dancer’s pads.

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Metatarsal Bar

According to the Footpain Relief Store, metatarsal bars are, “rubber, leather or synthetic bars applied transversely to the sole of the shoe with the apex immediately behind the metatarsal heads.” They work by redistributing weight from the ball of the foot to the entire foot (offloading, in other words). This lessens pain and limits aggravation. There are several types of metatarsal bars. The wearer usually affixes the metatarsal bars to the sole of the shoe, though with some types the user would place them between the insole and the sole. Metatarsal bars especially help those suffering from a burning sensation in the foot.

Custom Orthotics

Custom orthotics are another way to protect the ball of the foot and alleviate pain. Though over-the-counter orthotics exist, they often do not provide adequate protection because they do not fit properly. There are, however, some high-end non-prescription orthotics available on from vendors such as Aetrex that work well for some users.

A metatarsalgia sufferer’s best bet though would be custom orthotics. You can obtain these by seeing a foot medical specialist or by doing your own self-casting. The former would probably be more precisely fitted but could be more expensive. Medical insurance might cover all or part of the cost, so make sure to check.


Pain in the ball of your foot can negatively impact your lifestyle. It limits mobility and independence, which can in turn wear on the psyche. There is no reason to just take the pain though. There are several devices available that will allow anyone to manage their pain. It is best to try several until you find one that works.