March 15, 2019

What is Morton’s neuroma?

Diseases and Conditions | Foot and Ankle

This post is part of the Ultimate Guide to Foot and Ankle Injuries

A neuroma is an abnormality of a nerve. Morton’s neuroma is a thickening either of the nerve between the bones behind your toes or of the tissue that surrounds the nerve leading to the toes. If you feel like you are walking on a marble or rock and you have pain in the ball of your foot, you may have Morton’s neuroma.


The feet contain nearly one-fourth of all the bones in your body, which provide you with support and movement. There are 26 bones in one foot: 14 toe bones, five long toe (metatarsal) bones and seven tarsal bones. There are nerves that go out to your toes. The nerves on the bottom of the feet run between the bones that make up the ball of your foot.

Morton’s neuroma occurs as the nerve passes under the ligament connecting the metatarsal heads which are the bones right behind your toes. The condition typically develops between the third and fourth toes.


  • Irritation from tight or narrow shoes such as heels
  • Trauma
  • Excessive pressure

Women are 8 to 10 times more likely to get Morton’s neuroma when compared to men.

Symptoms of Morton’s neuroma

  • Burning pain in the ball of the foot
  • Pain that radiates from the ball of the foot to the toes
  • Pain in the ball of the foot that intensifies with activity or wearing shoes, especially tight shoes or heels
  • Numbness in the toes

Physician examination

To determine whether you have Morton’s neuroma, your physician will ask you for a complete medical history, have you describe your symptoms and how the injury occurred, and conduct a physical examination. An X-ray may be necessary to rule out other problems.


Treatment for Morton’s neuroma

Treatment always begins with conservative treatment and includes:

  • Purchasing new shoes that have soft, roomy toeboxes
  • Buying shoes that are one-half inch longer than your longest toe
  • Avoiding wearing tight, narrow, high-heeled shoes
  • Orthotics or custom shoe inserts
  • Injections of corticosteroid to reduce swelling and inflammation

Surgery and recovery

Over 80 percent of people find relief from conservative treatment options for Morton’s neuroma. If conservative treatment fails, your physician may recommend surgery to cut out a small portion of the nerve or release the tissue around the nerve. This is usually done as an outpatient procedure and requires protection of the foot for a few weeks after surgery.
Understanding your feet and what shoes to wear

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