Around every joint in the body is what is called a joint capsule. This kind of capsule is what holds the bones each side of the joint together and keep the fluid in the joint that lubricates the joint in position. Parts of that joint capsule tend to be thicker and stronger. These thicker and stronger areas would be the ligaments that give stability to the joint. In the joints on the base of the toes in the foot, the metatarsophalangeal joints, the thickened bottom part of that joint capsule is generally called the plantar plate. This ought to be thicker and stronger as we place so much force through it when running and walking and it has to be able to take it. In some cases that force can be so great it could possibly strain that plantar plate or ligament and it will become damaged. When this occurs, the medical term is plantar plate dysfunction and sometimes it may progress to a tiny tear in the plate, therefore gets termed as a plantar plate tear.
Most of the symptoms for this are pain under the joint whenever walking or on palpation, with the pain being more common in the direction of the front side of the joint. It in most cases only affects one joint but in some cases several can be affected. The toe might be slightly raised as the plantar plate is unable to secure the toe down because of the injury to its integrity with the strain or tear. Typically the diagnosis is clear, however, if not an ultrasound examination is sometimes done to verify it. The treatment commonly includes taping the toe to hold it in a downward position so the plantar plate is under less load so it can have an opportunity to heal. A pad could also be used in the footwear to keep weightbearing off the painful area. If these measures do not help, then a surgical repair of the plantar plate tear may be required.