Morton’s neuroma is a painful condition that affects the ball of your foot, most commonly the area between your third and fourth toes. Morton’s neuroma may feel as if you are standing on a pebble in your shoe or on a fold in your sock.
Morton’s neuroma involves a thickening of the tissue around one of the nerves leading to your toes. This can cause a sharp, burning pain in the ball of your foot. Your toes also may sting, burn or feel numb.
Typically, there’s no outward sign of this condition, such as a lump. Instead, you may experience the following symptoms:
- A feeling as if you’re standing on a pebble in your shoe
- A burning pain in the ball of your foot that may radiate into your toes
- Tingling or numbness in your toes
During the exam, your doctor will press on your foot to feel for a mass or tender spot. There may also be a feeling of “clicking” between the bones of your foot.
Some imaging tests are more useful than others in the diagnosis of Morton’s neuroma:
X-rays. Your doctor is likely to order X-rays of your foot, to rule out other causes of your pain — such as a stress fracture.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Using radio waves and a strong magnetic field, an MRI also is good at visualizing soft tissues. But it’s an expensive test and often indicates neuromas in people who have no symptoms.
Treatment depends on the severity of your symptoms. Your doctor will likely recommend trying conservative approaches first.
Arch supports and foot pads fit inside your shoe and help reduce pressure on the nerve. These can be purchased over-the-counter, or your doctor may prescribe a custom-made, individually designed shoe insert — molded to fit the exact contours of your foot.
Surgical and other procedures
If conservative treatments haven’t helped, your doctor might suggest:
Injections. Some people are helped by the injection of steroids into the painful area.
Decompression surgery. In some cases, surgeons can relieve the pressure on the nerve by cutting nearby structures, such as the ligament that binds together some of the bones in the front of the foot.
Removal of the nerve. Surgical removal of the growth may be necessary if other treatments fail to provide pain relief. Although surgery is usually successful, the procedure can result in permanent numbness in the affected toes.