What is a Dropped Metatarsal? Symptoms and Treatment

Pain in the foot is something that can often be overlooked and attributed to bad shoes, too much walking or even simple stress. However, it can be caused by a wide variety of different conditions, some of which can be quite dangerous.

Today I will talk about one such condition which might even require surgery – it’s known as a dropped metatarsal or metatarsalgia.

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What is a Dropped Metatarsal?

Firstly you might wonder – what are metatarsals even? How do you drop them and where do you drop them? Can you find them again after you drop them?

Well, metatarsals are bones in your foot, the ones that connect the toe bones to your midfoot. There are five of those bones – ones for each foot – and they are supposed to line up next to each other. Well then, what is a ‘dropped metatarsal’?

In short, a dropped metatarsal is one of those bones that has fallen out of line with the others. It’s called that because it sits lower than the others. It is also called a plantar flexed metatarsal or metatarsalgia – though that second name refers to the symptoms, which can also be caused by something else going wrong.

But what are those symptoms, you might ask? Well, I go into detail on that a bit later, but first I have to talk about something else.

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The Causes of a Dropped Metatarsal

There are a lot of different things that can cause a dropped metatarsal and you can take steps to prevent some of them.

For starters, the risk of getting a dropped metatarsal might be in your genes since birth – that’s something you can’t affect. Various inherent bone and muscles deformities can help contribute to one of your metatarsals dropping – some of these defects can be so small that you won’t even notice them. Having extremely flexible feet also increases the risk.

However, even if you are prone to it, you can still protect yourself.

Bad foot mechanics can also cause a dropped metatarsal so you should be careful when exercising your feet. If your feet are flexible and you roll them too much and perform too much excess supination or pronation, there’s a risk of one of your metatarsals dropping. Appropriate stretching exercises can help greatly with this.

Another reason is some sort of traumatic injury. Bad foot injuries can easily have a dropped metatarsal as one of the consequences. With proper rehabilitation, though, that should be avoided, though surgery might be needed.

Old age and arthritis can be another cause of a dropped metatarsal. That’s not something that’s easily avoided but, again, proper exercise can help prevent it.

What you can prevent, also with exercise, is getting overweight, another common cause of a dropped metatarsal. More body weight puts more pressure on your feet and the bones in them, making it more likely that you’ll get a dropped metatarsal.

Bad shoes can also be a reason, especially those with high heels since they mess up the weight distribution in your feet. That, combined with being overweight, causes a high risk. Shoes that are narrow near the front and squeeze your toes or exercise shoes that don’t have enough cushioning can also increase the risk.

But, how do you know if you got a dropped metatarsal?

Symptoms

There are a few telltale symptoms of a dropped metatarsal that you can look out for, though some of them can also be caused by other foot problems.

The symptoms are liable to include:

  • An aching or burning pain in the ball of the foot, usually just behind the toes
  • The pain gets worse when walking, especially barefoot and on harder surfaces
  • It also worsens when flexing or stretching your foot
  • It might constantly feel like you have a rock in your shoe, even when you’re barefoot
  • Numbness in the toes or a tingling sensation
  • Calluses forming the ball of your foot, where the metatarsal has dropped

Those are the usual symptoms, and if you have at least a few of them in conjunction, you should talk to a doctor. Even if it turns out you don’t have a dropped metatarsal you might have metatarsalgia, which can be caused by other foot problems. A few physicals and maybe an x-ray will correctly diagnose the problem.

Obviously, if you have these symptoms, you should stop any sort of exercise that you’re doing which involves your feet. Running is, obviously, out of the question and you should immediately take steps to get the problem fixed, especially if you’re experiencing a lot of pain.

Now, you shouldn’t be too afraid if you exhibit these symptoms since this condition can be treated. You can continue running, even if you get metatarsalgia. In the next section, I’ll tell you exactly how you can get out of this sticky situation.

Treatment

There are many different ways to treat a dropped metatarsal or metatarsalgia, but most are non-invasive, and you won’t have to go through a lot of trouble to get rid of the problem.

For the most part, the problem can be solved by using some of the best walking shoes for metatarsalgia that you can get. These shoes are designed to keep the pressure off your foot and allow the bone to return to its proper position over time. Once you get some of the best shoes for metatarsalgia, your problems can be gone in a while. They can be prescribed by your doctor, or you can get some by yourself.

If you need to perform some metatarsalgia treatment at home, the best thing you can do is to put some ice on the inflamed area to relieve it. Even only 15 minutes with an ice pack per day can greatly relieve your pain. Decreasing your activity for a while can also help, as can some anti-inflammatory home remedies or over-the-counter medicines.

To ease the pressure on the bone and the foot, your doctor can also prescribe something less radical than shoes, and those are pads or insoles. Some of the best insoles for metatarsalgia can greatly help manage and fix the problem.

There are various kinds of pads and patches out there, and not all of them work. You should be careful when buying them and be sure to buy only the best insoles available, those that are sure to work. Even then, you have to make sure you’re using them properly, and your doctor can help with instructions on that.

Best ankle supports

Some ankle supports might also be able to help you and relieve the pain or other symptoms of a dropped metatarsal.

Orthotic devices can also be prescribed by your doctor and help fix the condition and reverse the progression if it’s particularly dire.

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However, none of these treatments can permanently fix the core of the problem if it is in your genes and the construction of your foot. They only relieve the symptoms. In that case, surgery is necessary to eliminate the root of the issue. Surgery might also be needed if the problem progresses too far for conservative treatments to work.

In most cases, though, applying some of the other treatments will work to correct the issue and help you to once again stand comfortably on your own two feet.

Conclusion

So, that’s about all I can say on the topic of dropped metatarsals. If you suspect you have this condition, you should probably get yourself checked as soon as possible and stop with your daily running or speed walking routine.

I hope this article was at least a bit helpful to you and I’m glad if it gets even one person to the doctor in time before surgery becomes a necessity. Until next time, stay safe and healthy. 

Bella Williams
 

Hi! I'm Bella. I love running. I write this blog to share everyone about running.

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