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Sore, Aching Foot

Q: My favorite thing about fall is switching shoe wardrobes, but now I'm having a problem that's spoiling my fun. My right sole feels really achy and sore, like the ball of my foot's been badly bruised. At first I wrote the pain off to the new pointy-toe pumps I was breaking in, but I stopped wearing them and the pain won't let up. There's no visible bruise...just a few calluses, but I always have those. What's going on?

Dr. Donnica:
It sounds like you have metatarsalgia, a condition marked by pain and inflammation in the ball of your foot. Sometimes, this soreness can be due to trauma, but more commonly, it's caused by everyday factors that over-stress the ball of the foot. High heels or any improperly fitting shoes are common contributing factors. And that callusing you referred to is an important clue that the front of your foot is under too much pressure. High heels may be cute, but they shift your body weight forward, increasing stress on the area with every step you take. If you are overweight, this effect is magnified with each step. Pointed toes also prevent the natural spread of the foot that ensures an even distribution of pressure.

To treat this problem, switch to comfy flats or 1" heels max (this height reduces pressure on the ball of the foot by 7 times, compared to 3-inch heels). Adding over-the-counter metatarsal pads (cushioned inserts placed directly under that callused area) will help ease the soreness and prevent future pain. Ice the painful area for 20 minutes, 2-3 times per day, and use an over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain reliever (Motrin, Nuprin, Advil, etc.) to alleviate soreness. If the pain persists or crops up again, see a physician or a podiatrist; you could have a nerve impingement or gait problem that requires professional treatment.

Created: 7/11/2006  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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