What started off as a slight pain in the balls of both my feet eventually became so painful that I could barely walk at all, even short distances. Unless you’ve had metatarsalgia before, it’s hard to understand how uncomfortable and painful it can be. Knowing I had a trip to Spain planned soon, where I would need to walk several miles per day, sometimes carrying a 50 lb backpack, I knew I would have to figure out a way to decrease the pain. Here’s what I did.
Trying to find some level of fitness, Audrey and I began participating in some light jogging around our neighborhood, while visiting Lake Havasu City in Arizona. Our routine consisted of jogging about 1.5 miles in one direction downhill and the same way uphill, at about 110ºF.
One day, during a short 2-mile low-impact walk, I noticed my feet hurting. Erroneously, I mistook this pain for simply sore feet.
The next day, my feet felt like someone took a hammer to the area around the balls of my feet. Once again, I mistakenly accepted the pain as achiness, nothing serious. Boy, was I was wrong.
After about 30 days of living in pain, I realized that this pain was beyond something that was going to gradually go away—and my feet hurt just as much one month later. For this reason, I began researching my pain. I found out that I was suffering from metatarsalgia.
What Is Metatarsalgia
Named after the five metatarsal bones, metatarsalgia occurs when the metatarsal bones, near the forefoot, become inflamed and painful. For me, it feels like walking on severely bruised bones near the balls of my feet. Specifically, the pain is the most intense near the second (the toe next to the big toe) and third metatarsal bones but the first and fourth also endure discomfort.
Below is how I mended my metatarsalgia pain. It all started with getting rid of the shoes I was wearing and purchasing new insoles, metatarsalgia pads, and comfortable shoes.
Best Travel Shoes for Metatarsalgia
Once I realized I was suffering from metatarsalgia I began taking the appropriate measures. Nevertheless, limiting my walking, stretching and rubbing my forefoot, taking ibuprofen, and icing the balls of my feet unfortunately didn’t seem to help much.
Hoping some new insoles would help, I purchased these affordable high arch support insoles on Amazon for about $10. To a certain extent, they did help and made my feet feel a little bit better. However, they didn’t provide the metatarsalgia lift that was needed.
After many hours of research, I came to realize that the goal of the insoles, pads, and shoes should be to lift the metatarsal bones near the midfoot about ¼-inch (where the cuneiform and cuboid bones connect), not to provide padding to the end of the metatarsals. Raising the midfoot area right before the ball of the feet transfers the weight of each step to the toes and heel—eliminating metatarsal pain and providing time for the area to heal.
Had I known at the time how serious and long-lasting metatarsalgia pain is, I probably would have bought these insoles which have metatarsal pads built into them. However, at $60 a pair, they were too expensive for me to consider at the time. Also, I’m not sure that they would provide adequate lift, although they may for some. It really depends on your foot.
A nice way to combat expensive metatarsalgia insoles is by adhering these 3M metatarsalgia pads to the bottom of your insoles. For instance, I took my new insoles which provide excellent arch support, and adhered metatarsalgia pads to them.
This helped alleviate some of the pain. At this point, I could at least walk around the grocery store without being in agony. However, it was nowhere near enough relief to consider backpacking across Europe. Next, it was time to go shoe shopping.
Where to Place the Metatarsal Pads?
The metatarsal pads should be placed in front of the heads of the metatarsals. In other words, wherever you’re suffering pain, move the metatarsal pad somewhere between ¼ to 1/8 of an inch back towards the heel. Moreover, placing the metatarsal pads under the metatarsal heads will only create more pressure, inflammation, and pain.
By placing the pad behind the metatarsal heads, the metatarsals should feel and appear as if they’re falling off a cliff—this is what will alleviate the pressure and prevent the metatarsals from impacting the ground with harsh force.
Budget Tip: I used this video to help me with the placement of the metatarsal pad.
Shoes for Metatarsalgia
After much research and trying on all brands of shoes, I narrowed down the selection to Altra and HOKA. I have to admit, I didn’t particularly prefer the style of HOKAs but I had to give them a try. Boy, am I glad that I did.
Overall, I didn’t particularly agree with what I read online. While both shoes were comfortable I found the HOKAs to have more room for the phalanges of the foot (toes) which is the opposite of what I found on the internet.
I ordered both pairs on Amazon and figured that I would just return the ones that didn’t work for me. Although the Altra’s were also extremely well-made and had a unique and comfortable fit, I felt like the HOKA’s had just a bit more support. Also, when walking around the house I felt virtually no metatarsalgia pain with the HOKAs and just a small bit with the Altras.
My advice: Find a style that’s appealing on Amazon.com and purchase ½ size larger than you normally would wear. This will allow you extra room for your toes to spread and disperse your body weight across more of the shoe.
Winner of Best Shoes for Metatarsalgia: HOKA
Backpacking in Europe
After several days of walking 5 to 8 miles per day, and a couple of those miles wearing a heavy backpack, I feel great! I went from suffering from pure agony by simply walking around the grocery store to walking several miles through Barcelona. Truly, I’m amazed at the comfort of HOKAs.
For anyone suffering from metatarsalgia, I highly recommend you give the insoles mentioned above, the metatarsalgia pads, and HOKAs a try as a first remedy. It worked for me.
*I purchased the shoes for metatarsalgia, the insoles, and the pads on this page myself, and am recommending them from my personal experience. However, this page does contain affiliate links for these items. If you do make a purchase from Amazon, I may receive a small commission.
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