What Are Metatarsal Pads?
Metatarsal pads are cushion pads placed inside shoes to relieve the pressure from the foot’s metatarsal heads. They are positioned under the ball of your feet to keep the metatarsal heads cradled and cushioned.
With the right placement inside of your footwear, metatarsal pads help lengthen the tissue on the top of your foot, thereby off-loading pressure typically placed on the ball of the foot via proper toe alignment. If you exercise heavily or work a lot on your feet, these are probably a good thing to implement into your soles to improve your foot’s overall health – a common issue that may obstruct you over time.
How Do They Help?
Having improper pressure on certain parts of your foot, especially the ball of the foot, can create excessive pain in that area over time and make your toes align in awkward or improper resting positions. If the pain isn’t apparent yet, check to see if you have tight extensors, which is apparent by seeing if your toes lie flat or instead curl up after lifting your leg up and letting it dangle for a few seconds.
Ball of foot pain can become a serious issue, as it is the area where the long bones (metatarsals) connect to the base of the toes. Over time, these joints can become overused and sore, since so much impact and pressure are applied to them when in motion.
By using a metatarsal pad, it serves as a quick aid to the overall health of your lower legs and upper foot, as it teaches your feet and toes to learn a new position. Tight muscles, foot pain, and overall imbalances can be mitigated by having a metatarsal pad to properly relocate pressure across the foot.
What Should I Look out for When Buying a Metatarsal Pad?
Before going off and buying the first metatarsal pad you find, consider six basic fundamentals of metatarsal pads that may help you make a better purchase that meets your needs accurately.
Metatarsal pads come in a slew of different base materials, all of which are designed to reduce foot pain effectively. The most common are:
- Open-cell polyurethane (PU) foam – which is a durable material that provides solid cushioning.
- Wool/Polyester Felt – which isn’t as durable but has good firm support. Not ideal if you happen to sweat a lot since they tend to absorb liquids and dry slowly.
- Latex/Leather – that is used in combination to provide both durability and comfort from both materials.
As a rule of thumb, the stronger the adhesiveness a pad uses, the better, as it will stick on longer. The stickier it is, the less likely it will be that the metatarsal pad will slip or come out of place. There are also a different set of ways a metatarsal pad may stick itself to your shoes, such as a self-sticking pad that sticks to the bottom of the foot, while others may stick to the top of the insole or perhaps even feature a Velcro attachment system.
It may not be immediately apparent, but having an odor-resistant pair of metatarsal pads is very important. You’ll likely be wearing them constantly throughout many days of use, meaning you’ll produce a lot of sweat and odor over time. It is recommended you get a pad that helps eliminate the bad smell, such as open-cell PU foam pads that are a mix of latex and leather, and help eliminate such odors.
Type of Metatarsal Pad
Metatarsal pads come in various forms to match their intended style of use, which include the following: Athletic pads, that are thicker and more flexible, with no-slip grips for everyday use. Pure gel pads, that are very soft and fit well right under the ball of the foot, and great for different kinds of shoe types. Self-Adhesive pads, that have a sticky side that attaches to your foot, great for runners as they won’t need to be adjusted. Finally, Sleeve pads that slip around your foot and cushion the front of your feet while also helping relocate pressure.
The last thing to consider is the size of the pad since they come in different sizes. You should look for a pair that fits your foot shape and size perfectly for better comfort and a more prominent effect.
How Should I Position Them?
When it comes to metatarsal pads, a common mistake is shoe-horning them into your preferred footwear at about the area where your ball of the foot is. This is not ideal, and instead, you should completely remove the insole of your shoe so you get a perfect view of where you’ll be placing the metatarsal pad.
As for where exactly it goes, you should put pressure on the ball of your foot (the area just beneath your toes) and feel a broad flat area on each of your toe bones – the metatarsal head. With your hand pressuring the metatarsal head, use your other hand to flex your toes, and you should notice a prominent area where the two bones meet, these are where the joints are located. This is also the area where the pad should be positioned, so place them accordingly on the sole.
You’ll notice a few things with the pad properly in place and in use. Firstly, the fact that the entire arch area of the metatarsal is going to be elevated by the pad, a sure sign you’ve placed it correctly. Secondly, with the metatarsal arch elevated, your toes will be falling downward, and when walking, the pad will continue to draw your toes downwards. This is important as it is proof that the pressure in the region is being displaced elsewhere.
Having said that, here is our list of the best metatarsal pads available whether you’re a runner, work on your feet all day, experience pain in the ball of your foot, or metatarsal pain in general.
1. Dr. Frederick’s Original Metatarsal Pads
First up, we have Dr. Frederick’s, and their Original Metatarsal Pads. These are soft gel foot sleeves that aim to give you even cushioning from issues such as metatarsal joint pain, bunions, blisters and more. It is made with soft medical-grade rubber and thermoplastic elastomer (TPE), making them easy to clean and disinfect.
These metatarsal pads are also stretchy, reusable and adjustable, so they accommodate a wide variety of foot types. This half-sleeve footpad cushions your forefoot while the soft gel portion relieves pressure on your metatarsal joints. If you’re a particularly active individual, these are great as they are non-slip, so they will stay on even during activity. It also means that if you wear high-friction shoes, these pads will alleviate that issue by protecting the area.
Dr. Frederick’s metatarsal pads prioritize results, so if the purchase of these metatarsal pads for your ailments doesn’t help you, they will either find something better suited in their line or give you your money back.
Unfortunately, there are a couple of issues that these pads have that may detract from everything else they offer. Most importantly – they sometimes slide or come out of place if you do vigorous movement over an extended period of time, so it is often recommended to wear tight socks to have the pads remain as fixed as possible.
The second issue is that for some people, this design is too cushioned and not firm enough for their foot pain, and they would prefer a firmer orthotic. If you’re a person who already knows you want a firm pad, these may not be the best choice.
+ Engineered to deal with a variety of foot ailments
+ Very comfortable and soft
+ Money-back guarantee
– Can come out of place without tighter socks
– May be too soft for some
2. ZenToes Pads for Men and Women
Next, we have the Metatarsal Pads from ZenToes that features sizes for both men and women to offer more comfort, support, and stability across your entire forefoot area. Compared to a regular shoe insole, these pads are designed to give you a better fit and added protection to the bottom of your feet.
This cushioned gel design soothes and balances your forefoot for as long as you wear it, regardless of shoe type, and alleviates a variety of pains and discomforts including the ball of foot pain. These footpads are also marketed as washable and reusable, saving you money in the long run, since you can hand wash them gently with soap and warm water and let them air dry.
You will also receive 4 pads in a single package, so while one pair is air-drying, you have another pair you can use instead. On top of this, they are also come with a solid return policy, as ZenToes is dedicated to giving its customers the best possible product. Overall, this package is definitely great value and solid bang for your buck if you’re a budget-conscious individual.
The only serious drawback is that for long walks or runs, these may not be thick enough and begin to wear down since the extra support isn’t built for such extremes. If you just need some extra support and won’t be completely overdoing it with exercises, they’ll feel just fine. But keep in mind if you’re a person who maintains a very active lifestyle or works a job where you’re excessively on your feet, these may not be as durable as you’d hope.
+ Great unisex pad that soothes and protects your forefoot well
+ Good for most if not all shoe types
+ Reusable and hand-washable
+ Come with 4 pads, and are returnable
– Not very thick and cannot be used for extended periods
3. Dr. Jill Felt Metatarsal Pads
Now onto the Felt Metatarsal Pads by Dr. Jill. These pads help alleviate pressure across the ball of your foot especially well since they happen to have a very wide-base. They are also self-adhesive to prevent sliding inside your shoes, which is great if you find yourself in high-intensity activities and cannot afford the discomfort of a pad becoming dislodged easily.
The pads can also be trimmed fairly easily to make them better fit your shoes, and given that there are 10 pairs-worth of pads for an affordable price, these are definitely something you might like to place in all your current footwear. These are definitely the most affordable pairs of pads thus far, and if you’re looking for an inexpensive product to dip your feet into before diving completely into the metatarsal pad world, the Felt Metatarsal Pads are a good place to start.
There is one issue that these pads have though, and it might actually be a good thing for some. They are fairly sticky on both sides and it is common that you may have to wash your feet off a few times before the adhesive is fully off of your foot even though your foot has long left the pad.
This is definitely an inconvenience that could be a serious bother to some, because nobody likes to add foot-washing to their routine just because a pad is very sticky, especially considering there are other alternatives out there.
+ Very cost-efficient purchase
+ Wide-base providing great support for ball of foot pain
+ Self-adhesive stays in position even during activity
+ 10 pairs worth of pads in one pack
– Too sticky, and makes your feet’s underside sticky as well
4. The NatraCure Gel Sleeve
Second to final on our list are the Gel Metatarsal Sleeves by NatraCure, which are a well-cushioned and reusable sleeve that helps relieve friction, burning pains, atrophy, and pressure from the ball of the foot. It does so by redistributing your weight over the extra-soft gel pad, which also doubles as a shock absorber during walking, running, or other activities.
These sleeves are primarily used for boots and casual shoes, but there are also options for dress shoes as well as narrower footwear. There are sleeve options for both narrow and wide feet, which is a welcome addition for those of you who have one or the other.
The stickiness level on the sleeves is definitely great if you will be using them during workouts or at your job because they won’t be easily stirred up or moved out of place. On top of that, they are washable, so after a long day, you can easily clean and ready them for the next day.
Unfortunately, the Gel Metatarsal Sleeves aren’t perfect, as they are fairly bulky compared to other options, meaning on certain shoes they don’t fit very well. In regards to long use, they’re great and the thickness is appreciated, but it’s bulk does pose a challenge for certain shoe types, especially depending on what kind of socks you use.
+ Thick sleeve great for ball of foot pain
+ Great for use over long periods of time
+ Narrow and wide shoe options
+ Ideal for work or exercise
– Can be overly bulky for certain shoe types
5. HappyFeet Metatarsal Cushion
Our final pair of pads is the HappyFeet Metatarsal Cushion pads. These are soft-gel cushions meant for the ball of the foot and overall foot pain. When it comes to things like metatarsalgia, burning sensations in the ball of the foot or neuroma, these pads are great for the alleviation of discomfort.
They are self-sticking cushions that make for an easy and straight-forward application that is compatible with all types of shoes. They are washable and reusable, so you can use them over and over without needing to be replaced constantly.
When it comes to other food pads, you may be used to stickiness at the bottom of your foot, but these pads have no such issue, which is a great positive. They are also odor-free so you don’t have to worry about accumulating stench, and even if they did, a simple wash takes care of it. These are a great pick if you’re looking for long-lasting support, as they stick firmly on and don’t cause discomfort in the middle of your routine.
The HappyFeet’s Metatarsal Cushion does have their share of quirks, though. Namely the fact that some people may feel the pads just aren’t thick enough. If you have severe pain or a case of metatarsal issues, you may need something heftier and thicker than this. But, if all you’re looking for is a bit of added support and comfort, these should be perfectly fine.
+ Compatible with all shoe types
+ Washable and reusable
+ Long lifespan
– Might not be thick enough depending on your metatarsal issues
To conclude, we’ve given you a good place to start on your journey to finding the best metatarsal pads for ball of foot pain/metatarsal pain, whether you are someone who needs it for casual use, walking, running, exercising, etc.
You have a comprehensive list of what to look out for when purchasing, how to properly apply a footpad so that you get the support you need, and some of the top picks for metatarsal pads that are great for your foot pain. We hope this article has better educated you on the matter and you find just what you’re looking for!