Do you always feel like there’s a pebble caught in your shoe right in the ball of your foot—but when you go to check, there’s nothing there? You might have a Morton’s neuroma.
In a sense, the condition really isn’t that different from standing on an actual pebble. Only instead of a pebble, it’s a mass of thickened tissue surrounding a nerve in your foot—usually between the base of your third and fourth toes. And instead of being inside your shoe, it’s inside your foot.
What Are the Symptoms of a Neuroma?
You probably won’t be able to directly see or even feel a neuroma—there’s no obvious “lump” that you can find when you push on the area with your fingers. But when you put weight on your foot, the neuroma pushes uncomfortably against the nerve.
This can cause a variety of possible sensations—a sharp pain, a radiating burning sensation, tingling, or even numbness.
What Causes Neuromas?
It isn’t always possible to identify a specific cause for every situation. That said, in a more general sense, neuromas tend to develop as a response to an injury or constant irritation and pressure in and around the nerve tissue. Risk factors linked with a higher risk of neuromas include:
- Wearing poor footwear, especially high heels and other styles that pinch the toes.
- High-impact activities, including running, sports, and even occupations that keep you on your feet all day.
- Foot structure. Your foot shape may naturally place excessive pressure on the front of the foot. This includes both “natural” inherited foot structures, as well as acquired deformities such as bunions or hammertoes.
How Are Neuromas Treated?
Our preference is always to treat neuromas conservatively whenever possible. Although the neuroma itself will not decrease in size, conservative options can often slow its progression and help you manage your day-to-day activities without pain or restriction. Common approaches may include:
- Custom orthotics. These are a great option for adding support and cushioning and offloading pressure on the neuroma. We use a non-weight-bearing 3D scanning system for our orthotics fitting, which allow the laboratory to manufacture inserts to fit your feet as precisely as possible. We also carry a selection of prefabricated orthotics, which might be appropriate in more minor cases.
- Better footwear. Shoes with lower heels, lots of wiggle room for the toes, and thick, shock-absorbent soles are ideal for people with neuromas.
- Padding and taping. We may be able to use special padding to slightly alter the biomechanics of the feet—enough to offload pressure and relieve pain.
If conservative treatments are not successful, surgery may be necessary. One option is to “decompress” the area surrounding the neuroma by cutting some of the surrounding ligament structures. Another is to remove the affected nerve entirely.
Both options have pros and cons; the answer to what to choose will depend on your specific needs. In either case, surgery is performed out-patient, with a recovery period of a few weeks to a few months.
Whatever your condition, the team at Canyon Foot + Ankle can help you overcome it and help you get back to your active lifestyle! To schedule an appointment, please call the office closest to you. In Twin Falls, call (208) 733-0436 and in Burley, call (208) 678-2727.