There are several causes of pain in the ball of the foot. The type of pain and its location help the doctor in determining the cause of the pain and helps to direct them in the best treatment for the patient.
Calluses on the bottom of the foot can be painful. These calluses are caused by an abnormal alignment of the bones behind the toes called metatarsal bones. When there is an abnormal alignment of one or more of these bones, they will experience excessive weight and pressure. The skin thickens in response to this pressure forming the callus. Treatment consists of periodic trimming or shaving the callus, padding the shoes to remove the pressure, functional shoe orthotics, or surgery. Surgery should not be contemplated until the use of orthotics has been determined to have failed. The surgery consists of fracturing the involved metatarsal bone to realign it. Following the surgery, the patient should wear an orthotic to prevent the occurrence of new areas of callous. People with diabetes should not trim or shave these areas or use over the counter corn removers.
Pain in the ball of the foot not associated with calluses can be a result of inflammation of a tendon into the toe, inflammation of the joint, or due to a pinched nerve called a Neuroma. A neuroma will also often cause a burning pain into one or more toes. Another cause of pain in the ball of the foot is arthritis. Arthritis will usually affect multiple joints in the ball of the foot. Common types of arthritis are rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and degenerative arthritis. Degenerative arthritis most commonly affects the big toe joint. The big toe joint is often stiff causing jamming (Hallux Limitus). Over time the jamming of the joint will cause an enlargement on the top of the joint.
The most common cause of pain in the ball of the foot, in the area of the big toe joint, is sesamoiditis. Sesamoiditis is an inflammation of two small bones under the big toe joint. On occasion, a stress fracture can occur in one of these bones. Severe pain with sudden onset about the big toe joint may be gout.