What Is Morton's Neuroma & How Can It Be Treated?
Morton’s neuroma happens when the tissue around a nerve leading to your toes becomes inflamed due to excessive pressure. You may have significant pain in the ball of your foot or feel like you have a pebble stuck in your shoe. Along with wearing the right shoes, using shoe inserts and orthotics for Morton’s Neuroma is one of the best ways to treat this condition.
Neuroma of the Foot
Despite the name, Morton’s neuroma is not a tumor, but rather the thickening of existing tissue around the affected nerve in your foot. It usually occurs between the third and fourth metatarsals, or the bones leading to your toes. Some healthcare providers might also call this interdigital neuroma, intermetatarsal neuroma, or plantar neuroma.
When the nerve between these toes suffers repeated pressure or compression, it can become inflamed and irritated, causing the surrounding tissue to swell. This can cause varying levels of pain and interfere with daily activities. Morton’s neuroma can also form between the second and third metatarsals, although this is less common.
Morton’s neuroma usually affects people between 30 and 60 years old. However, it can also occur in younger or older individuals depending on activities, foot anatomy, and choice of footwear. Because wearing high heels is a contributing factor, women are around 8 times more likely to develop the condition.
Morton’s Neuroma vs Metatarsalgia
While Morton’s metatarsalgia is another name for this type of foot pain, Morton’s neuroma and metatarsalgia are two different foot conditions. Ball of foot pain is characteristic of both, however the pain experienced with metatarsalgia is more general across the ball of the foot. It starts off dull and becomes sharper over time.
Morton’s neuroma pain, on the other hand, occurs between the third and fourth toes where you’ll also be able to feel a small mass. The condition comes with a numbness or tingling sensation in the toes that gradually develops into a sharp or stinging pain.
What Does a Morton’s Neuroma Feel Like?
Most people with Morton’s neuroma say it feels like you’re walking on a pebble that’s stuck in your shoe just underneath the toe area. Other common Morton’s neuroma symptoms include a burning or tingling sensation in the ball of the foot, pain that radiates to your toes, plus swelling and numbness.
Taking off your shoes and gently massaging the affected area can help alleviate some discomfort. Wearing tight, narrow, or high heeled shoes squeezes the toes together, aggravating the nerve and making the pain worse. Insoles for high heels as well as orthotics for low-profile shoes can help redistribute this pressure for more comfortable wear.
Causes of Morton’s Neuroma
Anything that puts consistent pressure on the ball of your foot and toes can cause Morton’s neuroma. This includes wearing high heels or shoes that are too small and tight as well as participating in high impact sports like running, jumping, or dancing.
Having flat feet or high arches can also make you more prone to the condition as it creates instability around the toe joints. Similarly, foot deformities affecting the toes such as bunions or hammertoes can also contribute.
Diagnosis & Treatment
If foot pain makes it hard to participate in daily activities or causes discomfort while walking, then schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider. Part of taking care of your feet is being more aware of what is causing your pain and how you can stop it.
By placing pressure on the ball of your foot and toes, your doctor can determine the site of pain and locate the neuroma. They may also listen for what is called “Mulder’s click,” a crunching sound common in patients with this condition. Some doctors perform imaging tests to rule out injuries like stress fractures or inflammatory diseases like arthritis.
Treating Morton’s Neuroma
With proper care, Morton’s neuroma is a highly treatable and curable condition. Those who fail to treat it risk continuing pain and permanent nerve damage. For most patients, nonsurgical remedies are enough to alleviate pain with about 80% of patients experiencing a successful recovery.
PowerStep® Pinnacle Plus Met and PULSE® Plus Met orthotics are two clinically tested insoles designed to support the metatarsals of your feet. These insoles reduce pressure, provide safety, and keep the nerves between the bones free from compression, making them ideal shoe inserts for Morton’s Neuroma. If your shoes do not allow for a full orthotic insole, metatarsal pads also help reduce ball of foot pain. For optimal treatment, consult your physician before purchasing.
Other treatment options include:
- Corticosteroid injections
- Taking anti-inflammatories like NSAIDs
- Using topical pain relievers for nerve pain
- Wearing supportive footwear with a wider toe box
- Using metatarsal pads or ball of foot cushions to spread your toes and supply cushion
- Icing the affected area to reduce swelling
- Limiting activities that put pressure on the ball of the foot
For some, these remedies may not be enough. In this case, Morton’s neuroma surgery could be necessary. This procedure involves removing the nerve tissue and has about the same effectiveness rate as nonsurgical treatments. Morton’s neuroma can reoccur post-op, as well, so be sure to take preventative measures.
To prevent Morton’s neuroma, avoid wearing tight or high heeled shoes for hours at a time. Instead, choose supportive footwear with plenty of padding in the ball of the foot and a wide enough toe area. Add orthotics to your shoes for enhanced comfort and support. Maintaining a healthy weight can also help, as being overweight may put more pressure on your feet.
PowerStep orthotic insoles are clinically proven to relieve foot pain and help prevent conditions like Morton’s neuroma. The signature arch shape supports healthy alignment and distributes pressure across the entire foot to alleviate pain. Plus, premium cushioning absorbs shock upon impact to reduce stress on your feet, ankles, and joints.
PowerStep has insoles for all shoe types, making it easy to prevent and treat Morton’s neuroma regardless of the shoes you wear. Browse anything from athletic and running shoes to dress shoes, work shoes, walking shoes, and more.
Morton’s Neuroma - OrthoInfo - AAOS. (n.d.). Www.orthoinfo.org. https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/mortons-neuroma
Morton’s Neuroma: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment. (n.d.). Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15118-mortons-neuroma
Munir U, Tafti D, Morgan S. Morton Neuroma. StatPearls. Published online September 7, 2022. Accessed November 15, 2022. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470249/
de Oliveira HAV, Natour J, Vassalli M, Rosenfeld A, Jennings F, Jones A. Effectiveness of customized insoles in patients with Morton’s neuroma: a randomized, controlled, double-blind clinical trial. Clin Rehabil. 2019;33(12):1898-1907. doi:10.1177/0269215519873949