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Do You Have Pain in the Ball of Your Foot? How to Diagnose and Treat Capsulitis

Posted on July 30, 2013 by Elf Martin There have been 8 comment(s)

Capsulitis Pain in Ball of Foot

When you mention foot injuries, most people think of Achilles tendonitis, stress fractures or the dreaded plantar fasciitis. While these afflictions seem to be the most popular, especially among runners, it is possible that pain in your forefoot could be the result of another common ailment: capsulitis.

No, it isn't the name of a Greek war hero. Capsulitis is a condition that affects the joints behind your toes. These joints are covered in ligaments that form capsules to help keep your bones moving smoothly. If those capsules become inflamed then you have capsulitis. Although this can happen to any joint in your body, it seems to be most common in the ball of your foot, especially behind your second toe.

So how do you know if you have capsulitis? It can be a painful condition, often accompanied by swelling and redness in the affected area. Walking with the inflamed capsules will often feel like you're landing on a stone with every step. If left untreated, chronic capsulitis can lead to the formation of painful calluses that feel as if they have a core or seed inside of them.

According to Dr. Ray McClanahan, podiatrist at Northwest Foot and Ankle, capsulitis is often caused by excessive weight-bearing beneath the affected toe joint, but these factors can increase the likelihood of the inflammation developing:

  • Extreme bunion deformity.
  • A second toe that is longer than your first toe.
  • An unstable foot arch.
  • Tight calf muscles on your involved side.
  • Imbalance between the muscles on top of and below your feet (extensors and flexors).
  • Regular use of footwear with an elevated heel, tapered toe box and/or toe-spring.

Dr. McClanahan believes that toe springs (shoe designs that force toes to be held in an upward position) and tapered toe boxes may be the most common causes of capsulitis. Both of these features, often found in conventional shoes, alter the way weight is distributed on our feet when we walk. Toe springs increase pressure under the joints where capsulitis often occurs, and tapered toe boxes squeeze your toes together, often taking much weight off the big toe and distributing it to the second toe.

Toe Spring and Tapered Toe Box

The good news is that capsulitis can often be relieved with simple non-surgical treatment, especially if it is caught at an early stage. Here are Dr. McClanahan's recommendations for dealing with the condition:

  • Rest: reducing weight-bearing activities can help control your symptoms.
  • Ice: icing your affected area can minimize your pain and swelling.
  • Taping or Splinting: proper taping helps align your involved toe and prevents your toe from drifting.
  • Stretching: stretching may be particularly important for those who have tight calf muscles or foot extensor/flexor imbalance.
  • Shoe Therapy: shoes with little or no toe-spring and wide toe boxes may be most helpful. Also, metatarsal pads placed in your shoe can help return your foot’s fat pad to its rightful, protective location under your metatarsal heads.
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents: supplements or medications can help reduce pain and swelling.

For more information on finding for shoes that allow your feet to move and develop naturally, check out our Barefoot Shoes Shopping Tips. Please remember that it is always recommended to seek the advice of a medical professional for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.


For more information: Dr. Ray McClanahan. "Capsulitis" Correct Toes (July 1, 2013)

This post was posted in Foot Health and was tagged with barefoot, foot, pain, cure, capsulitis, ball, metatarsal, pad, relief, inflamation, second toe

8 Responses to Do You Have Pain in the Ball of Your Foot? How to Diagnose and Treat Capsulitis

  • juliana
    juliana says:

    it is really hurting and its all around my feet

    Posted on May 15, 2014 at 6:18 PM

  • Elf Martin
    Elf Martin says:

    So sorry to hear that, Juliana. If simple home treatments and rest don't help then it may be time to seek a professional's advice.

    Posted on May 17, 2014 at 2:03 AM

  • Christophe Carlier

    Thank you for sharing, this article on relieving foot pain. Luckily, I have never had this problem even as a runner. My wife, on the other hand, has chronic foot pain and it is unfortunate because it can limit her in many things involving fitness and even work. Like you said, when you experience foot pain you should rest, use ice, stretch and even use anti-inflammatory agents. We went to a doctor a while ago but she has not really improved much. We will definitely look into going back to have her checked out again. Thanks!

    Posted on March 13, 2015 at 1:58 PM

  • Elf Martin
    Elf Martin says:

    You're welcome Cristophe! I'm glad you liked it, and I wish your wife the best of luck. I know how hindering and painful foot pain can be.

    Posted on March 16, 2015 at 8:01 AM

  • Laura Litty

    Good post. I like the breakdown of the factors and the specific approaches that can be undertaken. It is often a simple condition to treat, if caught early.

    Posted on April 5, 2015 at 12:12 AM

  • Elf Martin
    Elf Martin says:

    Thanks Laura!

    Posted on April 6, 2015 at 8:57 AM

  • Lauren
    Lauren says:

    I've been diagnosed with capsulitis. What are the best shoes on the market for this condition? Name brands? I currently wear New Balance 990's, but I need dressier shoes for church/work/date nights. Thanks!

    Posted on August 3, 2015 at 7:04 PM

  • Elf Martin
    Elf Martin says:

    Hi Lauren. We're not doctors, so we can't make any professional recommendations for a medical condition, but many of our customers tell us Soft Stars work great for treating capsulitis. Our Merry Janes, Metros and Ballerine flats can all fit dressier occasions if ordered in black. Otherwise, you may want to check out Dr. McClanahan's recommended shoe list:

    Posted on August 4, 2015 at 8:55 AM