The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

The Devil’s Bargain: Working Retail and Metatarsalgia

Posted by on Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013


An estimated two thirds of the United States’ GDP comes from retail consumption. Total retail sales in 2012 were $4.7 trillion. A shocking one in ten Americans works at least one retail job. Clearly retail work drives our economy. It’s incredibly important for our collective success as an industrial superpower, but this work isn’t easy. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of working a retail job, you know how exhausting it can be. Most retail workers are on their feet all day long, many of them standing in a stationary position behind a cash register. Standing all day can wreak havoc on the feet. One of the most common complaints from the retail sector: metatarsalgia.



It may sound like a post-modern philosophy, but metatarsalgia is a very real and painful disorder. It’s characterized by pain and inflammation in the ball of the foot. Standing for prolonged periods is a common cause, as is wearing high heels or shoes without proper support. If you’re standing for prolonged periods and you’re wearing unsupportive shoes, well, you’re cruisin’ for a metatarsal bruisin’.



If you’re a dedicated reader of this blog (and most people are, right?) you may already know what the metatarsals are and what they do. For everyone else: The metatarsals are the long thin bones that connect to your toes. The heads of the metatarsals attach at the ball of the foot between the arch and the base of the toes. Therefore, metatarsalgia refers to pain in the forefoot, at the site of the metatarsal heads. Metatarsalgia is more than just sore feet though. If pain lingers, increases, feels sharp or burning, or you notice numbness or tingling, you could be suffering from this disorder.



Retail workers are in for more than some foot pain, however, since many of them only work part time and don’t have health insurance. Foot pain without insurance can be frightening. Often, people without insurance will avoid visiting the podiatrist, either because they’re afraid of the bills or because they know they can’t pay them. If you’re a retail worker and think you have metatarsalgia but can’t visit a podiatrist, try these home remedies:

  • Rest. Take a few days off and elevate your feet. Ice the affected area and take an anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen.
  • Assess your footwear. Your shoes should be comfortable and supportive. Ditch the high heels in favor of shock-absorbing sneakers. If you need to wear fashionable shoes for work, try inserting cork or rubber insoles into flats.
  • Instead of running or walking for exercise, try swimming, rowing, or other low-impact activities to give your feet a chance to heal.

If your pain isn’t improving, it’s time to bite the bullet and visit The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine (212.996.1900). Getting fitted for supportive orthotics may save you from surgery down the line, saving you a lot of money in the process. You make your money on your feet. It’s important to take care of them.


If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.