Foot Conditions A-Z
A Morton's neuroma is a benign (non-cancerous) enlargement of part of a nerve that typically occurs between the third and fourth toes, just below their bases (between the third and fourth metatarsal bones); it may also occur between the second and third toes. Nerve enlargement is usually the result of compression and irritation. The pain associated with a Morton's neuroma generally occurs gradually, but gets worse over time. These neuromas are more common in women than men.
The following symptoms are common:
- shooting pain
- Wearing shoes with a toe box that is too tight, which can compress the toes and forefoot.
- Wearing high-heeled shoes, which force the forefoot into too tight a toe box and increases pressure on the forefoot.
- Any repetitive impact or trauma to the forefoot, especially from court or racket sports and running.
Prevention and Treatment
The simplest way to prevent Morton's neuromas is to protect the feet and skin from ill-fitting shoes. Make sure that your shoes or boots have sufficient cushioning and room in the toe box so that excessive pressure is not exerted on the forefoot and the toes are not compressed together.
To ensure your feet are optimally protected, IPFH suggests you wear only properly selected and fitted, as part of an integrated approach, padded socks with shoes with non-slip outsoles and any inserts or orthotics prescribed or recommended by a doctor or foot health professional. Peer-reviewed, published studies have shown that wearing clinically tested padded socks can help protect against injuries to the skin/soft tissue of the foot due to impact, pressure and shear forces.
Your doctor may recommend conservative treatment, such as the following:
- Padding for the metatarsal arch area to reduce pressure on the nerve, spread the toes out, and decrease pressure during weight-bearing activities.
- Icing to help reduce pain and swelling.
- Orthotics to provide reduced pressure and support on the area.
- Metatarsal pads to help spread the forefoot and relieve pressure.
If you are in pain, consider resting and eliminating activities such as running and racquet sports. Anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs such as ibuprofen), taken under medical supervision to avoid side effects, also can help reduce pain and inflammation.
If conservative treatments don’t help, your doctor may recommend corticosteroid injections and surgery to remove the neuroma. Permanent changes in footwear may be required (for example, wearing padded socks with shoes with wider toe boxes and not wearing pointed shoes or high heels) to ensure that the condition does not return.
Neuromas can occur in various parts of the body and typically are not serious, although they can be very painful. If left untreated, continuing compression of the nerves can lead to permanent nerve damage.