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Morton's Neuroma

A Monthly Foot Fact from

High on the list of painful foot conditions caused by poorly fitting footwear is Morton's Neuroma, or nerve inflammation at the ball-of-the-foot.

Symptoms of Morton's Neuroma include sharp or shooting pain, burning, swelling and sometimes a lack of feeling in the affected area, usually between the third and fourth toes. The condition may also cause cramping in the forefoot.

"Morton's Neuroma can be extremely painful, and some patients describe a feeling as if they are walking on pebbles," says Dr. Suzanne Belyea, D.P.M., C. Ped. and medical director of

According to Dr. Belyea, the condition is caused by bones squeezing a nerve, usually between the 3rd and 4th metatarsal heads (the metatarsals are the long bones extending between the ankle and the toes). Morton's Neuroma can be aggravated by shoes with pointed toes and/or high heels, which put unnatural pressure on the forefoot and can pinch the nerves between the toes. If a patient's feet are predisposed to the problem due to their bone structure, Morton's Neuroma can also be caused by any activity that puts significant pressure on the forefoot, such as walking, standing, jumping or sprinting.

The first step for treating Morton's Neuroma is to select proper footwear with a high, wide toe box to ease pressure in that area. Patients are also encouraged to use an orthotic equipped with a supportive metatarsal pad. The pad should be located behind the ball-of-the-foot to unload pressure and relieve nerve pain.

Surgery to relieve the inflammation is an option if other treatment methods fail. Studies have shown that surgery is 75% successful. About 25% of patients may experience pain from the sensitive nerve endings after surgery or from the formation of a stump neuroma (recurring neuroma). Symptoms in these cases may be similar to those experienced before surgery.

If you are experiencing pain in the ball-of-the-foot and suspect Morton's Neuroma, consult your foot doctor. For more information on this and other foot conditions, visit

last update: July 2008

This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use this material to diagnose or treat a health condition or disease without consulting with your healthcare provider.
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