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Plantar Plate Problems

The plantar plate is soft tissue on the bottom of the foot, attached to the base of the toe and the metatarsal bones. It acts as a cushion when you are walking or running, and helps to bring the toe to the floor when you are standing. Plantar plate problems can cause other conditions including hammer toe or a dislocated toe.

What causes plantar plate problems?

Problems can be caused by:

  • The shape of the metatarsal bones. Having a long first metatarsal and/or a short second and/or third metatarsal increases the risk of problems
  • Overloading one of the metatarsals
  • Being pigeon-toed
  • Having big toe arthritis
  • Having had previous steroid injections into the area

What are the signs of having plantar plate problems?

Signs include having pain in the ball of the foot, a change of position of your second or third toe over a period of time, or having had a Morton’s neuroma that hasn’t responded to treatment.

How are plantar plate problems diagnosed?

During your first appointment, you’ll have an opportunity to discuss your symptoms with Mr Heidari, who will be able to advise you on the best course of treatment. He may also arrange for you to have an X-ray to check the condition and alignment of the foot bones, along with an MRI or ultrasound scan to check for a plantar plate tear.

What does treatment involve?

Not everyone who has plantar plate problems will need surgery. In many cases, resting the foot and applying an ice pack regularly, along with anti-inflammatory painkillers (if advised by your doctor) can relieve the pain. In some cases, shoe inserts or changing the type of shoes you wear can help.

If the plantar plate is likely to be torn, or Mr Heidari is concerned it may lead to hammer toe, you may be advised to have surgery. Depending on the cause of the plantar plate problem, this may involve:

  • Repairing the plantar plate
  • Realigning the toe
  • Repairing ligaments on the sides of the toes
  • In some cases, if the metatarsal bone is long, the bones can be realigned, reducing pressure and pain

This information is written as a guide to your treatment but it is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. Please contact us for advice if you are worried about any aspect of your health or recovery.