Millions of people suffer from metatarsalgia. If you find that you often have pain in the ball of your foot, you could be suffering from it too!
Your metatarsals are the bones that run from the base of the toe joints to about halfway back to your ankle. Metatarsalgia causes pain in the joints at the base of your toes, which become inflamed. Although it’s not considered to be a serious condition, it can be painful enough to make you want to give up running altogether.
Usually, the best course of action is to invest in a new pair of shoes with more forefoot cushioning. But if you like the shoes you already have, or you can’t afford to buy new running shoes, dress shoes, work shoes, and slippers, you can buy an insole that can easily be moved from shoe to shoe whenever you need that support.
The best insoles for metatarsalgia will support your arch, cushion your foot especially in the painful areas, and be easy to move from one shoe to another. That’s why we’ve chosen the Tread Labs Pace as our number one.
Here are the insoles we recommend if you need relief from metatarsalgia.
Top 3 Best and Favorites
Tread Labs Pace
Spenco RX Orthotic Arch Supports
1. Tread Labs Pace
This is an innovative 2-part insole system. There’s the molded arch support, which is a half-length firm piece that fits into the heel of your shoe. Plus, three different length top covers give you firm cushioning.
The top covers are 5mm thick and made from 3D molded, open-cell polyurethane foam. A thin top cover uses PURE antimicrobial treatment to prevent odors.
The whole insole consists of a full-length thick cover, a full-length thin over, and a half-length thick cover, although it’s not recommended to use the half-length, as it won’t cushion the ball of your foot.
You can get the arch support piece in four different arch heights, from low to extra high. Tread Labs makes a number of different insole models, but the Pace is what they make specifically for pain relief.
This system is unusual and effective because you can swap out the top covers depending on whether you need more or less metatarsal support. You can also buy metatarsal support pads separately if you find that you need a bit more in the ball of the foot.
If your top covers wear out, you can replace them easily instead of having to replace the whole system. The molded arch support is covered by a Million-Mile Guarantee, so the company will replace them if they break, no questions asked.
Some people feel that the insole is too soft and might want a more rigid insole. You can look at other Tread Labs insoles if you find that these ones are too soft for you.
- 5mm thick top covers
- 2-part system
- Molded arch support
- PURE antimicrobial treatment
- Some people may find that this insole is not rigid enough for them
2. Spenco RX Orthotic Arch Supports
Spenco RX Orthotic Arch Supports are designed to keep your feet in the right position. This can help to relieve metatarsalgia pain, as it disperses the pressure on your feet away from the metatarsals.
Moldable arch support in the base layer conforms to the shape of your arch to offer optimal support. This insole comes in seven different sizes so you can find the right size and fit for your foot.
The top layer consists of a full-length 4mm-thick SpenCore material that provides cushioning and absorbs the impact of every step, whether you’re running or doing other high-intensity workouts.
A layer on the top of the cushioning reduces friction to make for a more comfortable experience. They use Silpure antimicrobial fabric to keep your feet free from odor.
These insoles are well-priced, but they may not be as durable as others.
- Choose from seven arch heights
- Silpure antimicrobial material
- Flexible arch cushion
- May not be as durable as others
Best Insole for Wider Feet
3. Protalus M100
Those with wider feet may struggle to find insoles that fit comfortably into their shoes and don’t move around. The Protalus M-series insoles are made for people who have wide feet.
These full-length insoles have semi-rigid arch support and innovative Tri-Planar technology to keep the ankle in the right position. This relieves extra pressure on the rest of your foot when you walk.
The technology and the firm arch support also stop your foot from rolling over and putting unnecessary pressure on the big joint of the ball of the foot.
A full-length EVA foam footbed helps to reduce the jarring impact of each step. There is an extra cushion under the forefoot that’s enhanced with poron to support and absorb shock and protect the metatarsal joints.
There is also extra heel padding, which means that your foot will be comfortable from heel to toe. This insole is Protalus’ thickest and most cushioned.
Some people may find that the new insoles take some time to wear in, and you don’t feel the pain relief benefits straight away.
- Semi-rigid arch support
- EVA foam molded body
- Extra heel padding
- Patented tri-planar technology
- They may take some time to wear in before you feel the benefit
Top Insole with Heel Support
4. Superfeet Everyday Pain Relief
In some cases, metatarsalgia can be caused as a result of heel pain. When your heel is painful to step on or not well-supported, it can cause you to favor the ball of your foot when you walk, putting more pressure on the metatarsals and causing pain there too.
An insole with extra heel support may be just what you need. The Superfeet Everyday Pain Relief insole has been made to reduce pain by supporting and cushioning the heel.
They offer both heel and forefoot cushioning as well as extra heel stabilization to keep your foot as secure and comfortable as possible.
These insoles have been designed with a biomechanical shape to give you arch support in the right places. A deep heel cup keeps your foot locked in so it can’t move around and cause hot spots on the forefoot.
The heel is supported first by an EVOLyte carbon fiber cap, and has a horseshoe-shaped external heel stabilizer to absorb impact and prevent any extra movement.
For cushioning, a therapeutic footbed made from Vibram Diflex foam shapes to your foot and takes the pressure off while providing a soft feeling underfoot with every step. It runs from heel to toe, offering cushioning both for the heel – 5mm – and the metatarsal pad – 4.6mm.
Individuals who have wider heels may find that the heel cup on this insole is slightly too narrow for them to wear comfortably.
- Vibram Diflex therapeutic foam
- EVOlyte stabilizer cap
- Biomechanical shape
- Antimicrobial top cover
- People with wider heels may find the heel cup to be too narrow
Best Insole Made With Natural Materials
5. Sole Active Medium (Cork)
These insoles are environmentally-friendly and made with natural materials. The cork arch support is both sustainable and durable. It also absorbs impact very well, so you’ll have underfoot cushioning from heel to toe.
These cork insoles are heat-moldable if you want to get a good fit very quickly, but they will also mold to your foot the more you wear them. This makes them suitable for any arch height.
Sole Active Cork insoles are zero-drop, which means there is no forward lean like on other insoles with a heel-to-toe drop. Because your foot isn’t leaning forward slightly, there is less weight placed on the forefoot, and so less pain in the joints.
They use Softec cushioning and have a metatarsal pad built into the insole so the ball of your foot gets some extra cushioning. The firmness of the cork also helps the weight to be distributed evenly over the insole, so it prevents causing pressure on any specific part of the foot.
The cork may dry out and crack if these insoles are exposed to heat often.
- Built-in metatarsal pad
- Moldable orthopedic base
- Polygiene odor control technology
- Eco-friendly base
- The insoles may be less durable than others, especially if they are exposed to heat
Top Cushioned Insole
6. Powerstep Pinnacle Plus
For those who need extra padding underfoot, these insoles have a double layer of cushion and a metatarsal pad to provide support and comfort.
They are designed to help reduce the effects of overpronation, which means that they keep your foot in the right position.
The packaging of this insole specifies that it’s for “ball-of-foot pain”. They’re medical-grade and approved by the APMA (American Podiatric Medical Association).
For cushioning, a double layer of EVA/VCT (Variable Cushioning Technology) foam places material where it is needed the most. The soft and springy feel reduces jarring from shock.
A raised pad in the forefoot offers extra support and comfort to the metatarsals. The heel thickness is 5mm, and at the forefoot, you have a 4.25mm padding.
- Built-in metatarsal support
- Semi-rigid arch support
- EVA/VCT for targeted cushioning
- Contoured stabilizing heel cradle
- Some people may find that there’s not enough cushioning at the forefoot
What is metatarsalgia?
Metatarsalgia is when the joints beneath the toe—metatarsal heads—become inflamed. The condition causes pain and tenderness in the ball of your forefoot. You may experience sharp, shooting pain when you flex your toes or when you’re standing or walking.
You could also experience a burning sensation, soreness, shooting pain, tingling in your toes, or even numbness just below the toes. It may feel worse when you’re walking barefoot over a hard surface—walking on your kitchen or bathroom floor.
It may start in the second toe of your foot at the joint where the toe connects to metatarsal near the ball of the foot, and it can affect more than one toe at a time.
What causes metatarsalgia?
Metatarsalgia is generally caused by overuse of the foot. But it’s not the only reason one may experience metatarsalgia. It can also be caused by the foot not dispersing weight correctly, or from constant pressure being placed on the ball of the foot.
It can also be caused by wearing shoes that are too tight. Improperly fitted shoes create pressure on the forefoot. In other situations, sloping shoes such as high heels place too much pressure on the ball of your foot.
Sports such as tennis, running, or jumping can put extra pressure on the foot, and the repetitive motion will then create inflammation in the forefoot. If a person has a narrow feet, flat feet, or high arches, where the weight of your body is dispersed unevenly, it can lead to metatarsalgia—especially if the arch is not adequately supported.
Metatarsalgia can also be caused by other foot and joint conditions, such as:
- Hammer toes
- Stress fractures
- Morton’s neuroma
How can metatarsalgia be treated?
Fortunately, you can treat and prevent metatarsalgia at home, depending on the severity of your pain.
Changing your shoes will be a good step towards preventing it in the future. If you are already suffering from the condition, new shoes might alleviate the pain. Shoes with a wide toe box give your toes and forefoot space so that your foot can go back to its natural alignment. This will also fine-tune the way you walk, and it can reduce the amount of pressure that’s placed on your knees, hips and back.
Make sure to give your feet time to rest and heal. You can apply ice to the foot up to 6 times a day for about 20 minutes. This will help to reduce inflammation and alleviate pain.
After any activity, including being on your feet all day, elevate your feet. This helps to reduce the swelling. You can also take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication—Advil or Motrin IB—to relieve pain and inflammation.
You may want to invest in a pair of orthotic insoles that have a metatarsal pad to provide additional cushioning and reduce the amount of pressure on the forefoot. Such insoles should have adequate arch support, as this will help to absorb the impact of your foot strike and reduce the pressure on your forefoot.
Taking a break from shoes that have high heels—sorry, ladies, but this means taking a break from your high-heeled shoes and stilettos—and wearing flat or zero drop shoes will help to reduce the pressure on the forefoot. This will allow your foot to heal.
Take a break from high-impact activities and look at doing alternative low-impact exercises like swimming, the elliptical machine, or cycling.
What should insoles for metatarsalgia have?
When looking at shoes to help with metatarsalgia, look at shoes with a wide toe box so that your toes are able to spread out naturally. They should have good arch support, as this will reduce the amount of pressure on your forefoot.
The shoe should have good forefoot cushioning, as this will reduce the shock of your foot strike. The upper should be snug but flexible so that it moves through your natural foot path without creating pressure points on your foot.
The shoe should also have either a deep heel cup or stabilizing heel cradle. These features help to support and disperse the pressure on your foot. It will help to support the arch of your foot, which is very important if you have high arches or flat feet.