Condition, Metatarsalgia

15 Great Exercises For Metatarsalgia that Help Reduce Pain


The pain from Metatarsalgia can be debilitating, but there are exercises that will help reduce the pain. These exercises must be done properly to avoid making it worse. Follow these exercises for Metatarsalgia for relief. 

What Is Metatarsalgia?

Metatarsalgia is a foot condition in which the metatarsal bones of your foot become inflamed and sore due to overuse or injury. This condition usually affects people who have high arches or flat feet, as well as those with diabetes or nerve damage in their feet. The symptoms may include intense heel, arch, and ball-of-foot pain; inflammation around the toes; feeling like you’re walking on rocks; numbness in toes and soles of feet; burning sensation at night while trying to sleep; stiffness after waking up in the morning. Read a full article about Metatarsalgia here.

How Does Exercise And Stretching Help With Metatarsalgia? 

There are many great benefits to regular exercise and stretching when treating metatarsal pain. It is the most important part of any worthwhile treatment plan and should be done alongside other components such as footwear recommendations or possible corticosteroid injections (NICE 2017). Some of these benefits include:

  • When paired with other treatment options, the benefits of this procedure include increased blood flow to feet and toes for better healing
  • Reduced pain and swelling throughout the affected area
  • Improved flexibility within foot, ankle, hips or lower back from greater strength in muscles surrounding joints. 
  • Overall improvement on gait mechanics.

Stretching Exercises for Metatarsalgia

Metatarsalgia is often linked with stiffness or pain in the toes, arch, and ankle. By focusing on these specific areas, it is possible to reduce the effects of metatarsalgia.  Stretching is an important part of the exercises for metatarsalgia pain relief.

  1. Toe Pumps

Sit in your bed with the legs out straight, on the floor or even a chair to get started. If you’re in a chair make sure your toes are free to move by propping up onto heels and then alternate between scrunching (flexing)and extending them slowly until they loosen up.

Repeat 20 times for 2-3 sets.

  1. Toe Flexor Stretch

This stretch specifically addresses those sore toe tendons that cross the ball of the foot (metatarsal heads). It can be especially helpful if you are experiencing a hammertoe in addition to metatarsalgia. Sit in a chair with your propped on the opposite thigh so you can reach them with hands. Then, ankle slightly as use palm bend toes toward top until feeling the strong stretch bottom.

Hold 30+ seconds each time or move the toes in and out for 15-20 reps. Repeat for 2-3 sets. 

  1. Sitting Calf Stretch

When you are experiencing stiffness and pain in your ankle, calf stretches can help. For a deep stretch without putting any pressure on the ball of your foot, sit down with a strap wrapped around it to pull up towards the shin while keeping a straight leg. Do not force yourself into any discomfort as this may cause injury instead of relief.

Hold for 30+ seconds for 2-3 sets on each leg. 

  1. Standing Calf Stretch
  1. Wall Stretch

Start by standing near the back of the chair or wall, then bring your leg behind you while stepping into the lunge position with both feet flat on the floor. Make sure that both legs are straight and pointed forward as shift weight onto the front leg until a feeling stretch in the lower calf area.

Hold for 30+ seconds for 2-3 sets on each leg. 

  1. Towel Calf Stretch

Sit with your leg out straight. Then loop a towel around the ball of your foot and hold one end in each hand while placing both feet on top. Gently pull the ends of the towel to bring your toes toward you until you feel slight tension, but don’t overdo it!

Hold for 30+ seconds for 2-3 sets on each leg. 

  1. Golf Ball Massage

Slowly place a golf ball down and press your heel onto it. Then, begin rolling the ball along the arch of your foot for two minutes to soothe any pain you may be feeling in that area.

  1. Water Bottle Ice Pack

Freeze a bottle of water. Laying the small bottle of water on the ground, press it with your foot before rolling along your arch for two minutes.

Strengthening Exercises for Metatarsalgia

At this point, you have addressed any flexibility issues in the ankle and foot muscles. Now it is time to start building strength as well as endurance of these muscle groups. This will help ensure that your body can maintain any range-of-motion improvement you make while also boosting overall confidence with regard to injury healing. In order for exercises for metatarsalgia progressions not to cause further damage or discomfort, always begin small before increasing difficulty levels.

  1. Toe Scrunches/Metatarsal Arch Exercises

To build intrinsic foot strength, sit in a chair with a towel flat on the floor and both your feet resting on it. Using your toes to scrunch the towel closer towards heels lift up as they reach forward and curl back. If you have enough coordination notice how close together this exercise can bring them before repositioning that’s okay too!

Repeat for 10-15 repetitions for 2-3 sets total.

  1. Marble Pick up/Marble Transfer

Pick up marbles or other small objects one by one from the floor below where you are sitting using your toes. Place them in a cup to your side and continue until all pieces have been collected.

Pick up 10-15 objects, 2-3 times total. 

  1. Ankle Band Strengthening

Use a resistance band to strengthen your ankles. First, wrap the ends around the ball of one foot and hold them with both hands. Then point toes as you push against it (complete 10 reps). Next, repeat on other ankle but this time move away from the body in the opposite direction when pointing feet (again complete 10 reps).

10-15 reps for 2-3 sets

  1. Calf or Toe Raises

Toe raises are a little bit hard to do, but if you start out slow on the ground and work your way up, they get easier. Stand near something for stability like a chair or wall so that it’s harder to fall down. Start with lifting just your toes as much off of the floor as possible without wobbling too much in either direction (toe-side or heel-side). Try doing ten toe raises at one time then rest after while taking breaks between sets when necessary since this exercise can be painful sometimes.

10-15 repetitions for 2-3 sets. 

  1. Single Leg Stance

You can start this exercise on the floor, but once you’re ready it is much easier and more challenging if done while standing near something for balance. Shift your weight into one foot and lift the opposite foot off of to ground just a little bit (focus on keeping that arched). For the leg still touching down maintain a high arch by focusing on not letting any part of your feet touch except where they normally would be when wearing shoes or barefoot.

Hold for 30-60 seconds on each leg for 2-3 sets.

Tips on Recovering From Foot Pain

Foot pain is a tricky problem that can be difficult to self-treat without the proper guidance. This article will give you tips on how to recover from foot problems and maintain good health.

  • Add daily massage with your hands or a massage balls in your daily routine.
  • Address the root-cause of the pain. 
  • After working out or standing around with your feet, apply ice and heat compresses for 30 minutes to relieve pain. 
  • Take anti-inflammatory medications if necessary as well.
  • Consider taping your feet before going through strenuous activities
  • Invest in proper fitting shoes and cushioning to support your feet for the long term by using orthotics, metatarsal pads, or insoles.
  • Limping as little as possible can help prevent other lower body and back pain issues.
  • A comprehensive home exercises for metatarsalgia program should ideally be done under the guidance of a physical therapist, but scheduling one for you isn’t always possible.


If you are suffering from Metatarsalgia, it can be debilitating pain. You want to do all that you can to reduce the pain and get back on your feet as soon as possible. We hope you found the exercises for metatarsalgia in this article helpful to relieve some of the pressure off of your metatarsal heads and plantar fascia ligaments. Feel free to comment and share!

Photo by Michał Parzuchowski on Unsplash