If you're bothered by pain in the balls of your feet, chances are you're suffering from one of a variety of ailments related to your metatarsal bones. Each of your feet has five metatarsal bones, the forward ends of these bones form the “ball” of your foot. Proper support of these bones can relieve and prevent forefoot pain.
A metatarsal pad, or met pad for short, is a common solution to forefoot pain. Recommended by podiatrists and other health care providers, the pads provide pain relieving support to the metatarsal bones. The best metatarsal pads are designed to alleviate your pain and get you on your feet again. Pain-free, you can enjoy all your regular activities.
What are the Medical Causes of Forefoot Pain?Forefoot pain can be caused by:
- Metatarsalgia – This term describes the general symptoms of forefoot pain. It is often used as a catch-all for forefoot ailments.
- Bursitis of the feet – Bursitis is an inflammation of the fluid filled sacs that cushion joints in the body. In the feet, it can manifest as achy, swollen joints with restricted motion. Bursitis is often most painful in the morning.
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) – The forefoot is the most common place for RA to produce discomfort. RA is an inflammatory condition that affects joints in the body.
- Neuromas – This thickening of the nerve that runs through the ball of your foot can produce a burning sensation, often between the 3rd and 4th toes. It is sometimes caused by shoes that are too tight at the ball of the foot.
- Plantar Warts – Caused by a virus, these warts are located on the soles of the foot. They are usually harmless and go away by themselves within a couple of years. They can however, be uncomfortable when they are in a weight bearing location.
How Met Pads Relieve Forefoot PainMet pads work by reducing the pressure on the ball of your foot. They reduce the pressure by supporting the metatarsal bone just behind the ball of your foot. By distributing some of the pressure to the shafts of the bones, the pads diminish the pressure on the balls of your feet.
Be aware – met pads are not cushions located under the balls of your feet. Instead, they are strategically placed pads, just behind the balls of your feet, that take some of the load off the balls of your feet. Many products sold as met pads are actually forefoot cushions. These cushions may provide some pain relief, but will not address the underlying issue.
Metatarsal Pads – Available in a Variety of MaterialsMet pads come in a wide variety of materials and attachment methods. All are designed to do one thing: reduce your foot pain.
Metatarsal pads are most commonly made from the following materials:
- Open-cell polyurethane foam – delivers long term resilient cushioning.
- Wool or polyester felt – Less resilient and firmer than polyurethane foam, felt is best if very firm support is needed. Felt can be slow to dry.
- Latex and leather – Leather is used to reinforce the softer latex material. Be aware that some people are allergic to latex materials.
Any materials that come directly in contact with the foot should have an effective antimicrobial treatment to prevent odor causing bacterial growth.
How Met Pads Stay in PlaceOnce you've established that a metatarsal pad might be the solution to your foot pain, it's time to think about how you want to wear them.
Self-stick to the bottom of your foot
Sometimes the met pad features self-stick adhesive to adhere directly to the bottom of your foot. There are several problems with this design:
- Adhesives can be irritating to the skin.
- Getting the right location may take some trial and error. The stickiness of the pad may be compromised as you re-position to get the right fit.
- Pads that are in such close contact with the foot are more likely to wear out or develop odors.
- Sticking pads to the bottom of your feet each day is inconvenient.
Self-stick to the top of the insole in your shoeIf you have an insole or shoe that you're happy with, a met pad can be strategically placed to provide the best relief. Advantages if this design include:
- After trial and error to determine the best location, your met pads will be there for you every day.
- Separated from your foot by a sock, your met pads will last longer and stay cleaner.
- Less chance of a skin irritation from adhesive.
Velcro attachment underneath your insoleThis unique design uses Velcro to attach the met pads under the top surface of your insoles. It is designed to work with the Tread Labs insole system. This system has the advantages listed above plus:
- Velcro does not lose its grip like adhesives, allowing for many adjustments without compromising the attachment.
- As you put your shoes on each day, you will not peel the met pad from the insole. It is protected, below the top of the insole.
- Putting the pad under the top cover of the insole protects it from the foot. The anti-microbial nature of the top cover keeps the met pads from becoming havens for dirt and bacteria.
Don’t let Forefoot Pain Slow You Down
Forefoot pain can severely and negatively impact your life, causing distress not only when you're walking or running, but all throughout the day. In some cases, the pain can be so intense it renders you virtually immovable — or you find yourself walking with a limp to account for the pain you're experiencing.
Look at the available met pads and find a solution that best meets your needs. We are obviously partial to the Tread Labs Met Pads, but other designs may suit you better. In all cases, the pads should be washable and reusable. They should be compatible with all types of shoes, so you can experience the support you need in any situation — whether you're burning calories during a morning jog or walking around the office in dress shoes.
If you have any questions about met pads or forefoot comfort, feel free to call Tread labs at 781.435.0662.