Morton's neuroma

woman massaging her painful foot
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
Morton's neuroma is 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. Also, your toes may sting, burn or feel numb.
Morton neuroma
Pain in the ball of your foot may be a sign of Morton’s Neuroma.
The condition is more common in women and high-heeled shoes have been linked to its development. Many people experience relief by switching to lower heeled shoes with wider area for the toes.

Sometimes corticosteroid injections or surgery may be necessary.

Typically, there's no outward sign of this condition, such as a lump. Instead, you may experience:
  • a feeling as if you have a pebble in your shoe
  • a persistent pain in the ball of your foot that may radiate out to your toes. Pain at night is unusual.
  • a tingling or numbness in your toes.

Causes

Morton's neuroma seems to occur in response to irritation, pressure or injury to one of the nerves that lead to your toes

When to see a doctor

It's best not to ignore any foot pain that lasts longer than a few days. If you have a burning pain in the ball of your foot, try changing your footwear and modifying activities that may cause stress to your foot.

If the symptoms persist and are not improving, see your doctor.

Diagnosis

During an examination, your doctor will feel for a noticeable lump or a ‘click’ between the bones. Pressure will be applied on the spaces between the toe bones to try to recreate the pain.

Your doctor will also look for calluses or evidence of stress fractures in the bones that might be the cause of the pain.

Range of motion tests will rule out arthritis or joint inflammations. X-rays may be required to eliminate a stress fracture or arthritis of the joints that join the toes to the foot.
foot massage
Doctor checking joint flexibility with goniometer

Risk factors

Factors that seem to contribute to Morton's neuroma include:
High heels
Wearing high-heeled shoes or shoes that are tight or ill-fitting can place extra pressure on your toes and the ball of your foot.
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High-impact sports
Participating in high-impact athletic activities such as jogging or running may expose your feet to repetitive trauma.

Sports that feature tight shoes, such as snow skiing or rock climbing, can put pressure on your toes.
Rock climber
Foot deformities
People who have bunions, hammer toes, high arches or flat feet are at higher risk of developing Morton's neuroma.
bunions

You may also like to view the most frequently asked questions about feet and ankles.
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