Morton’s neuroma, also known as intermetatarsal neuroma, is a painful condition involving the ball of the foot between the third and fourth toes. It occurs when the tissue surrounding a nerve that leads to the toes begins to thicken and swell up. Over time, the swelling will start to compress and irritate the nerve, which can lead to inflammation, pain, numbness, and/or tingling in the toes.
Morton’s neuroma is caused by repetitive trauma or force to the affected area. You may be at a higher risk of developing Morton’s neuroma from the following:
- Shoe choice: If you choose footwear with narrow toes or wear high-heeled shoes, they can add pressure onto the ball of your foot.
- Foot Conditions: Certain foot conditions that affect the shape of your foot, such as flat feet, high arches, or hammertoes, can also increase the risk of developing Morton’s neuroma.
- Sports: Sports activities, such as running or tennis, put a lot of pressure on the balls of your feet and can increase the risk of Morton’s neuroma. Athlete’s often run into injuries that can lead to developing the condition.
Of all the treatments, the most effective way to treat Morton’s neuroma is to change your footwear. Doing so will alleviate pain or pressure on your feet and toes. If Morton’s neuroma goes untreated, it could lead to further issues, such as permanent nerve damage. Seeing a foot specialist to go over the possible treatment options can avoid serious foot complications.
What Are the Symptoms of Morton’s Neuroma?
In the beginning, you may not notice any symptoms of Morton’s neuroma. While the condition doesn’t result in any physical proof under your foot, you may begin to feel some slight pain at first. Over time, it will gradually increase into noticeable symptoms.
The symptoms of Morton’s neuroma include the following:
- Sharp, burning pain in the ball of the foot. The pain is often felt between the third and fourth toes.
- Pain while you stand, walk, or run
- Pain that worsens while wearing tight, ill-fitting footwear, such as high-heeled shoes
- Swelling between the toes
- Burning, tingling, or numbness in the toes
- Feeling as though there is something under your foot as you stand or walk
What Causes Morton’s Neuroma?
An irritated or damaged nerve in the ball of your foot is what causes Morton’s neuroma. The common causes include:
- Footwear, such as high heels or shoes with a tight toe box, put persistent weight on the joints and nerves around the toes. Footwear is the most common indicator of Morton’s neuroma development.
- Sports or high-impact activities that add pressure on the ball of your foot
- Foot deformities, such as flat feet, high arches, hammertoes, and bunions can increase the pressure on the balls of your feet.
- An increased weight gain that adds more force on your feet and toes as you walk can severely irritate the nerves in your foot.
- Injury or trauma to the foot and ankle can lead to developing Morton’s neuroma.
How Is Morton’s Neuroma Diagnosed?
A physical exam and review of your symptoms is the most effective way to diagnose the condition. Your foot will be examined to see if there is any mass between the toes. Pressure to specific locations of the foot will indicate the origin of the pain. While an x-ray won’t show whether you have Morton’s neuroma, an ultrasound or MRI can confirm the diagnosis.
How Is Morton’s Neuroma Treated?
While Morton’s neuroma can be painful, there are ways that the condition can be managed and treated. Custom orthotics are a beneficial way to reduce pressure from the balls of the feet or the base of the toes. The orthotics we offer at our clinic are designed to offload any stress that your foot may be dealing with. One of our skilled foot specialists can fit you with the correct orthotics to treat your Morton’s neuroma.
- Wear shoes that fit comfortably and offer support with a wide toe box.
- Avoid wearing high heels or shoes that are tight and narrow-toed.
- Use proper insoles when you wear shoes.
- Ice your feet or toes to relieve pressure or swelling.
Medications & Injection Therapy
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen or aspirin
- Steroid injections
- Alcohol sclerosing injections, which help reduce nerve pain
- A local anaesthetic injection to relieve pain
- Cortisone injections to provide temporary relief of pain
If other treatments don’t work, your doctor may suggest surgery. A neurectomy is a common procedure when getting Morton’s neuroma surgery. The foot and ankle surgeon will remove part of the nerve tissue to relieve pressure and pain.
Other forms of foot and ankle surgery related to Morton’s neuroma include decompression surgery, which involves the cutting of ligaments and other structures surrounding the nerve. Another form of surgical treatment is cryogenic surgery, in which cold temperatures are used to kill the myelin sheath covering your nerves.
What Are the Risk Factors for Morton’s Neuroma?
The following risk factors can make you more prone to developing Morton’s neuroma:
- Wearing tight shoes with a narrow toe box
- Wearing shoes with heels
- Conditions, such as high arches which increase the pressure on the balls of your feet
- Other foot conditions, such as clawed toes, hammertoes, and bunions, which cause strain on the affected nerve
- High-impact sports or activities that put pressure on your feet.
How Can I Prevent Morton’s Neuroma?
Prevention of intermetatarsal neuroma can be made by doing the following:
- Annual assessments with a foot specialist to examine and potentially prevent the development of Morton’s neuroma
- Custom orthotics to address biomechanical abnormalities of your feet
- Wearing shoes that offer arch support and proper weight distribution
- Shoes with a wide toe box to provide room for your toes
- Avoiding/reducing the number of times you wear high heels
- Wearing athletic shoes during sports activities
- Maintaining a healthy weight
If you’re experiencing severe foot pain, consider making an appointment with one of our skilled foot specialists today. We have a variety of services and treatment options to help you in your time of need. Our licenced foot specialists strive to ensure that you walk out of our clinic with more relief than when you walked in.