Metatarsal pads are used to help spread the transverse arch (the arch behind the ball of the foot that runs across the width of the foot), promote the return of overextended toes to their normal anatomical position, and encourage the return of the forefoot fat pad to a place that supports the metatarsal heads. In other words, metatarsal pads help properly realign the metatarsal heads and the fat pad that's underneath them. This, in turn, can help straighten and realign the toes, especially when metatarsal pads are used in conjunction with a toe-spacing product such as Correct Toes.
Effects of Conventional Footwear
The conventional footwear features of heel elevation, toe spring, and toe taper can negatively affect the foot over time. After many years of weight-bearing activity in shoes possessing these design characteristics, the feet become shaped like shoes. Toes become chronically overextended (pointed upward) and tapered toward the foot’s midline. The muscles under the foot, the flexors, become excessively stretched and weakened, while the extensors, on top of the foot, become too tight. In turn, the forefoot fat pad, which normally provides cushioning for the metatarsal heads and the nerves between them, becomes displaced too far forward. The bones and nerves in this area are then relatively unpadded and therefore vulnerable to bodyweight forces. This altered foot configuration can lead to a host of problems, including, but not limited to, neuromas, plantar fasciosis, and sesamoiditis.
Reconfiguring the Foot & Toes
Metatarsal pads, when properly placed within a completely flat shoe with a sufficiently wide toe box, can help undo muscle imbalances in the foot. Metatarsal pads help reconfigure the foot to the position that nature intended; that is, with splayed metatarsal heads, splayed toes, and a fat pad located directly underneath the fragile bones and nerves in the ball of the foot. Numerous foot and lower extremity problems can be prevented or reversed by restoring your natural foot anatomy and function.
Proper Metatarsal Pad Placement
It's important to correctly place metatarsal pads in shoes. Please see this short video tutorial on how to properly place metatarsal pads. Improper placement of pads is uncomfortable and could possibly worsen foot conditions. Also, as with Correct Toes, it’s important to use metatarsal pads in shoes that are completely flat (i.e., have no heel elevation, no toe spring, and no padding under the arch) and widest at the ends of the toes (not just at the ball).