How Do Metatarsal Pads Work & Why Do You Need Them
If you’re experiencing metatarsalgia or any other foot condition that causes discomfort, you might be curious about how metatarsal pads work and whether they can bring you relief. Let’s take a quick look at the functions of metatarsal pads and understand how they can potentially help in reversing possible foot problems.
Metatarsal pads are used to help spread your transverse arch (the arch behind the ball of your foot, that runs across the width of your foot). Wearing metatarsal pads restores your overextended toes to their normal anatomical position and encourages the return of your forefoot fat pad to its rightful position supporting your metatarsal heads.
Your metatarsals are the long, thin bones in your mid-foot. The heads of your metatarsals are at the ball of your foot, and they connect to the base of your toes. Metatarsal pads help properly realign your metatarsal heads and the fat pad that’s underneath them.
Foot Problems and Misalignment
The conventional footwear features of heel elevation, toe spring, and toe taper can negatively affect your foot over time. After many years of weight-bearing activity in shoes possessing these design characteristics, your feet become shaped like the shoes you wear.
Your toes become chronically overextended (pointed upward) and tapered toward your foot’s midline. The muscles under your foot, your flexors, become excessively stretched and weakened, while your extensors, on top of your foot, become too tight.
In turn, your forefoot’s fat pad, which normally provides cushioning for your metatarsal heads and the nerves between them, becomes displaced too far forward. The bones and nerves in this area are then relatively unpadded and therefore vulnerable.
This foot configuration can lead to a host of problems, including, but not limited to, Morton’s neuroma, sesamoiditis, and plantar fasciosis, or more simply: pain in the ball of your foot, heel, or both.
What Do Metatarsal Pads Treat
Metatarsal pads, when properly placed within a completely flat shoe with a sufficiently wide toe box, can help undo muscle imbalance in your foot. Metatarsal pads help reconfigure your foot to the position that nature intended; that is, with splayed metatarsal heads, splayed toes, and a fat pad located directly underneath the fragile bones and nerves in the ball of your foot. Numerous foot and lower extremity problems can be prevented or reversed by restoring your natural foot anatomy and function.
It’s important to know the proper metatarsal pad placement in your shoes. Improper placement of pads is uncomfortable and could possibly worsen your foot condition. Also, as with Correct Toes, it’s important to use metatarsal pads in shoes that are completely flat (i.e have no heel elevation, no toe spring, and no padding under your arch) and widest at the ends of your toes (not just at the ball). Finding such shoes can be challenging, check out Correct Toes approved shoes for a list of healthy footwear options.
Metatarsal pads offer a range of valuable benefits for foot health and can effectively address various foot conditions caused by misalignment and improper footwear. These pads, when used appropriately, can contribute to the prevention and reversal of possible foot problems.
–Dr. Ray McClanahan, DPM, Northwest Foot and Ankle / Correct Toes