Morton neuroma is painful thickening of the tissue around one of the nerves in the foot. It can affect any of the toes in the foot. However, it most often affects the nerves that run between the third and fourth, or second and third toes.
Nerves of the Foot
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The thickening of the nerve caused by inflammation and the build up of fibrous tissue on the nerve's outer coating. This fibrous build-up is a reaction to the irritation resulting from nearby bones and ligaments rubbing against the nerves.
Irritation can be caused by: Wearing shoes that are too tightWearing shoes that place the foot in an awkward position, such as with high heelsA foot that is mechanically unstableRepetitive trauma to the foot such as from sports activities like tennis, basketball, and runningTrauma to the foot caused by an injury such as a sprain or fracture
It is unusual for more than one Morton neuroma to occur on one foot at the same time. It is rare for Morton neuroma to occur on both feet at the same time.
Morton neuroma is more common in women. Other factors that may increase your chance of Morton neuroma include: Wearing narrow and/or high-heeled shoesObesityInjuries to the footActivities that cause repetitive trauma to the foot such as sports-related activities
Morton neuroma may cause: Burning, pain, tingling, and numbness often shooting into the toesDiscomfort that is worse while walkingFeeling of a lump between the toes
Symptoms are usually temporarily relieved when:
Taking off the shoesFlexing the toesRubbing the feet
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Initial diagnosis of Morton neuroma is based on your description of the type and location of pain and discomfort in the foot. The diagnosis will be confirmed by:
Physical exam of the foot, including:
Checking for mechanical abnormalities in the footSqueezing the side of the foot, which will usually cause pain when Morton neuroma is present
Examination of your shoes to:
Check for excess wear in parts of the shoeCheck to see whether the shoes are too tight
Imaging tests evaluate the foot and surrounding structures. This may be done with: X-rayMRI scanUltrasound
Injections of local anesthetic can also be used for diagnosis
Treatments may include:
Switching to low-heeled, wide-toed shoes with good arch supportWearing padding in the shoes and/or between the toesWearing shoe inserts to correct a mechanical abnormality of the footHaving ultrasound, electrical stimulation, whirlpool, and massage done on the foot
The foot may be injected with corticosteroids mixed with a local anesthetic in order to reduce pain. Relief may be only temporary however, if the mechanical irritation is not corrected. Injections with other types of medications such as alcohol, phenol, or vitamin B12 are sometimes used.
Surgery to remove the neuroma may be recommended if more conservative treatment does not solve the problem. While surgery usually relieves or completely removes the symptoms, it often leaves a permanent numb feeling at the site of the neuroma.
To help reduce your chance of Morton neuroma: Avoid wearing tight and/or high-heeled shoes.Maintain or achieve ideal body weight.If you play sports, wear roomy, properly fitting athletic footwear.
Clinical Practice Guideline Forefoot Disorders Panel, Thomas JL, Blitch EL 4th, Chaney DM, et al. Diagnosis and treatment of forefoot disorders. Section 3. Morton's intermetatarsal neuroma.
J Foot Ankle Surg. 2009;48(2):251-256.
Morton's neuroma (intermetatatarsal neuroma). American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons' Foot Health Facts website. Available at:
Accessed September 17, 2015.
Thomson CE, Gibson JN, Martin D. Interventions for the treatment of Morton's neuroma.
Cochrane Database of Sys Rev.
Last reviewed September 2016 by Michael Woods, MD, FAAP
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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