Your forefoot is the front part of your foot. It contains a complex network of ligaments, tendons, muscles, nerves, and blood vessels along with the metatarsal bones and phalanges.
The metatarsal bones — also referred to as the metatarsus — are the five long bones in each of your feet, located between the phalanges (toes) and the tarsal bones (the hind-foot and mid-foot).
The joints between the tarsals and the metatarsals are the tarsometatarsal joints.
The phalanges (toe bones) are the 14 bones in each of your feet that make up your toes. While each toe has three phalanges (proximal, intermediate, and distal), your big toe — also called the hallux — has only two phalanges: proximal and distal.
The joints between the metatarsal bones and the toe bones are the metatarsophalangeal joints.
There are a number of conditions that can result in forefoot pain including:
Metatarsalgia is an umbrella term for discomfort in the ball of your foot that is usually triggered when your metatarsal heads become prominent and tender.
If calluses are forming under your metatarsal heads it is often a symptom of malalignment, prominence, and increased weight bearing.
Causes of metatarsalgia include:
- intense athletic training
- hammer toe
- shoes that don’t fit correctly
- high heel shoes
- stress fractures
- inflammatory arthritis
Most bones are connected to other bones at joints. Sesamoids are bones that are embedded in muscle or only connected to tendons.
On the bottom of your foot near your big toe, there are two small sesamoids that offer a smooth surface for tendons to slide over while assisting with weight bearing and raising the bones of your big toe.
Sesamoiditis occurs when those tendons become inflamed or irritated. It is a form of tendinitis that is common among runners and dancers.
When tissue thickens around one of the nerves leading to your toes, it can cause a burning pain in the ball of your foot and cause your toes to sting or feel numb.
This condition is called Morton’s neuroma. It typically occurs in the area between your third and fourth toe.
Common injuries and conditions that cause toe pain include:
- hallux valgus (bunions)
- hallux rigidus (stiff big toe)
- osteophytes (bone spurs)
- hammer toe
- claw toe
- mallet toe
- paronychia (toenail infection)
- ingrown toenails
- turf toe
There are 19 bones in the forefoot of each of your feet: five metatarsals and 14 phalanges, along with a complex network of ligaments, tendons, muscles, and nerves.
Your feet are your foundation — on the ground whether you’re running, walking, or standing. Take care of them by keeping them clean and dry. Protect them with properly fitted and shock-absorbing shoes.
If you have foot pain or other foot issues, visit your doctor who might refer you to a podiatrist.