What Is a Morton's Neuroma?

Morton's neuroma is a thickening of the tissue that surrounds the small nerve leading to the toes. It occurs as the nerve passes under the ligament connecting metatarsal bones in the forefoot. 

Morton's neuroma most frequently develops between the third and fourth toes. It often occurs in response to irritation, trauma, or excessive pressure, and is more common in women. 

Symptoms

Morton's neuroma may feel like walking on a stone or marble. Burning pain in the ball of the foot may radiate into the toes. The pain can worsen with activity or wearing shoes. There may also be numbness or a "clicking" feeling in the toes. 

Runners may feel pain as they push off. High ­heeled and narrow toe box shoes also can aggravate the condition. 

Diagnosis

During the examination, your foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon will feel for a mass or a "click" between the metatarsal bones. He or she will squeeze the spaces between the toes to try to recreate the pain. Range ­of ­motion tests are used to rule out arthritis or joint inflammation. X-­rays can help rule out a stress fracture or arthritis.

Treatment

Initial treatment can involve several nonoperative options: 

Changes in footwear: Avoid high heels or tight shoes. Wear wider shoes with lower heels and a soft sole. This helps to decrease compression of the nerve. 

OrthoticsCustom shoe inserts and pads may help relieve irritation by lifting and separating the bones, reducing the pressure on the nerve. 

Injection: An injection of a corticosteroid will reduce the swelling and inflammation of the nerve, which should provide relief. 

Several studies have shown that a combination shoe changes, oral anti-inflammatory medications, orthotics, and/or cortisone injections will provide relief in more than 80 percent of people with Morton's neuroma. If conservative treatment does not relieve your symptoms, or if symptoms return, you may require surgery.

Surgery involves either removing a small portion of the nerve including the neuroma or releasing the tissue around the nerve to decompress it. It is an outpatient procedure, meaning the patient can go home the same day as surgery. Patients may be immobilized for 1-2 weeks to allow for healing of the incision, and then transitioned to regular shoes as tolerated. 

The American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS) offers information on this site as an educational service. The content of FootCareMD, including text, images, and graphics, is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnoses or treatments. If you need medical advice, use the "Find a Surgeon" search to locate a foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon in your area.