Metatarsalgia (Pain on the ball of the foot)
Metatarsalgia is a term used to describe pain in the balls of the feet. It usually occurs with a wearing away of the natural fat pads on the bottom of the feet and occurs with callousing from pressure and shearing. The wear and tear can be the result of having high arched feet, which have less surface contact to share the load, or it can be the result of pronating flexible feet where the long bones of the feet, (the metatarsals), are moving, when they should be stable. The tissue, or fat pads, then gets ground away from the inside by getting caught between a rock (metatarsal bone), and a hard place (inside of the shoe or ground).
Notice the dark areas indicating high pressure spots at the ball on this footprint example.
Ready-made shoes with soft soles and padded insoles usually help.
Rocker soles are also helpful in that they diminish the shearing and pressure on the ball of the foot at the propulsive phase of the gait cycle. The toes also bend less with rocker soles which keep the metatarsal-toe joints (met heads) from protruding.
$$ Shoe or Repair Store
You can purchase metatarsal pads, which are domed pads that redistribute the pressure to behind the ball at drug, shoe or shoe repair stores.
$$$ Athletic and Sporting Goods Shoe Store
Ready-made orthotic devices can have metatarsal pads integrated into them and also offer better weight dispersement. Ones with gel in the ball area cut down on the shearing effect that precipitates callousing.
Custom orthotic devices can be designed to alleviate pressure under specific metatarsal head bones that are painful and calloused. They can also control motion in the metatarsal bones to reduce trauma from underneath the skin.