The Metatarsal bones are directly behind the toes and can be a problem in any sport, or even walking. The jumping sports lead the group.

The most common location of pain is under the head of the second Metatarsal bone behind the second toe area, and under the first metatarsal head (sesamoid or accessory bone area) just behind the bottom surface of the big toe. Also common in this area are stress fractures, which usually cause swelling on the top of the foot.

If there is pain between the toes, radiating into the toes and then into the arch, a Morton's neuroma (or enlarged nerve) at the bottom of the foot may be present.

Another common area of pain are bunions and hammertoes. Bunions (inflammation) can occur either on the outside of the big toe joint or outside of the little toe joint.

This area may become red, hot, swollen, and very painful. Hammertoe is a contracted or claw-like toe. The contraction usually occurs as a result of imbalances of bone structures or muscles making the toe stick up higher than normal and causing pressure both from the bone inside the toe and from the shoe outside.

Both conditions (bunions and hammertoe) respond well to orthotic control. In more severe conditions, surgical intervention is utilized. In the prevention of these common injuries, it is important to understand the warning signs of stiffness, swelling and mild pain.

Listen to your body? At the first sign of pain, cut back on your exercise program and evaluate what is going wrong. Correct the problem, and then slowly build back to your original program as the pain subsides.

Dr.Robert F. Weiss is a podiatrist specializing in foot and ankle surgery. He was a member of the Medical Advisory Committee of the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Marathon Trials. Weiss is a veteran of 35 Marathons, has practice in Darien, affiliated with Stamford Hospital and member of Stamford Health Medical Group-Foot & Ankle Institute and resides in Westport.

For info visit his website at www.stamfordhealthmedicalgroup.org