Within the next 5 minutes, you’re going to know whether a pair of orthotics for ball of foot pain is going to help you get your spring back in your step.
And if you’re reading this, you already know how frustrating ball of foot pain can be. That reminder, every single step as you push off the ground that something is wrong. Something painful is happening. Your foot needs help.
If you’re like me, you want your ball of foot pain sorted, and sorted quickly.
So while you’re searching for answers to your ball of foot pain, let me show you what not to do. Because not everyone is as smart as you, not everyone does their research.
There are a couple of mistakes that people make with their orthotics for ball of foot pain which could be the difference between $1000+ down the drain (and you’re still in pain) and your happiness.
Orthotics for ball of foot pain must address your exact needs
How can you expect an orthotic for ball of foot pain to help you overcome your injury if it doesn’t address the reason why you are in pain in the first place?
If your ball of foot pain is from:
- A sore big toe due to too much twisting or arthritis.
- Bursitis or neuroma due to too much compression.
- A plantar plate tear due to too much load on the outside of your foot.
You’ll need very different orthotics for ball of foot pain for each one of these injuries. So grabbing an arch support from the chemist or supermarket isn’t going to cut it.
So what can you do?
Let me pull back the curtain and talk about 3 different orthotic styles which when custom-made to your foot can address the reason why you have ball of foot pain in the first place.
Orthotics for ball of foot pain from big toe twisting or arthritis
Your big toe is just like your thumb.
It can go up, down, round and round and even a little bit side to side. But you’ve evolved to need it to do the up-and-down movement as it pushes into the ground as you stride forwards. If there’s too much side-to-side or round-and-round movement your body can protect the area by growing more bone (a form of arthritis linked to bunions) and triggering a pain response.
So, for your big toe pain, your orthotic will need to limit the excess movement and if possible, encourage the up/down movement again. There are a couple of different ways to do that but one of the more comfortable is via an orthotic for ball of foot pain that is called a Mid-Mod Orthotic.
Mid-Mod orthotics apply a force under your 1st metatarsal, medial cuneiform joint (1st MCj for short). This principle when applied correctly takes load away from the big toe joint. Which is just what you need when your big toe is mighty sore.
Your podiatrist would ensure that your Mid-Mod orthotics for ball of foot pain are comfortable by deciding just how much force to apply by varying the thickness of your orthotic as well as height under your MCj.
If this sounds complex, it is.
There’s beauty in the science and physics of orthotic prescription.
Orthotics to reduce forefoot compression
When bursitis or neuroma causes you ball of foot pain you need to decompress the area.
Your metatarsals are squishing those structures and for pain relief, they need to make some more space.
Orthotics for ball of foot pain due to too much compression will often have a modification called a plantar metatarsal pad (or PMP for short).
PMPs can be made from super soft or quite firm materials depending on your needs. They work by gently lifting and separating the metatarsal bones so that they don’t squish your nerve or bursa to allow them to settle down and become less painful.
Your podiatrist can determine the exact size, location and thickness of your PMP requirements and incorporate them into your orthotic.
Orthotics for ball of foot pain from toes 2 through 5
Now, this might just be my favourite style of orthotic.
When you have ball of foot pain from toes 2 through 5 (your little toes and the ball of the foot just before them) you’re probably using them too much. Your big toe is there for the big jobs and the little toe’s only for the little jobs.
So, by combining a 1st ray accommodation with a 5th ray grind your orthotic will be gently pushing you away from pressing on the outside of your foot and back over to your big toe.
This type of orthotic for ball of foot pain can also be combined with a PMP listed above to even further reduce compression on your forefoot. You can also use it to change the load not just on the ball of your foot, but at your ankle, knee and hip as well.
And now you know all about the different styles and modifications orthotics for ball of foot pain can have to help you.
Before you go
About the author
Podiatrist and clinical educator Tim Mulholland is passionate about the appropriate use of orthotics. When used correctly they can be a vital part of your treatment plan to decrease overload on sore or injured tissues. Tim’s also made his fair share of mistakes with orthotic prescriptions in the past and hopes that by sharing his knowledge here others can learn from his hard-learned lessons.