Morton’s Neuroma | Orthopaedics | Loyola Medicine

Morton’s Neuroma

Overview and Facts about Morton’s Neuroma

Morton’s neuroma occurs when the tissue around the digital nerve, which leads to the toes, thickens. This orthopaedic condition leads to a lingering pain in the ball of the foot that can feel as though you’re walking on a marble. There may also be sharp pain in your toes that causes them to burn, sting, or feel numb. The thickening that causes this discomfort is most often found between the third and fourth toes.

Signs and Symptoms of Morton’s Neuroma

Unlike true neuromas, there is no tumor involved in Morton’s neuroma and no visible signs or symptoms. Instead, you may notice a telltale pain in the ball of your foot that may feel like you have a pebble in your shoe. This pain intensifies with activity.

If you’re a runner, you may first notice the pain when you push off a starting block. Those who wear high heels may also feel this burning pain, especially when stepping off the ground.

Causes and Risk Factors of Morton’s Neuroma

Orthopaedic conditions like Morton’s neuroma most often occur due to an irritation or pressure on the ball of the foot, or from an injury to one of the nerves in the foot.

Morton’s neuroma risk factors have been identified and include:

  • Wearing high heels
  • Wearing ill-fitting shoes
  • Playing high-impact sports
  • Playing sports with tight shoes
  • Having pre-existing foot deformities, including bunions, hammer toes, flat feet, or high arches

Tests and Diagnosis of Morton’s Neuroma

During a physical examination, your doctor feels the bottom of your foot for the thickening tissue, which may “click” between the bones of your foot. The doctor may try to mimic the pain you feel when you walk or look for any indication of another issue, such as a bone fracture or arthritis.

To rule out other conditions, your physician may recommend imaging tests like:

Treatment and Care for Morton’s Neuroma

Most cases of Morton’s neuroma can be treated at home with simple lifestyle changes. Depending on your situation, the doctor may recommend:

  • Avoiding high heels and tight shoes
  • Using custom shoe inserts or pads
  • Taking over-the-counter pain medication

Your doctor may also suggest corticosteroid injections, which can reduce swelling and pain.

If these treatments don’t bring relief, your doctor may opt for surgery to either remove the tissue surrounding the nerve or resect a small section of the nerve.