Morton's neuroma

Morton's neuroma is a condition that affects one of the nerves between the toes.

It's also known as Morton's metatarsalgia or interdigital neuroma.

In Morton's neuroma, fibrous tissue develops around the nerve, which becomes irritated and compressed. This causes severe pain on the ball of the foot and at the base of the toes.

Morton's neuroma can occur on one foot or both feet. It usually affects the nerve between the third and fourth toes, but sometimes the second and third toes are affected.

You may initially experience a tingling sensation in the space between your toes, which gets worse over time. This leads to cramp in your toes and a sharp shooting or burning pain on the ball of your foot or at the base of your toes.

The pain is often worse when walking or wearing shoes that press on the affected area.

Read more about the symptoms of Morton's neuroma.

What causes Morton's neuroma?

The pain of Morton's neuroma occurs when the nerve connecting the toe bones (metatarsal bones) becomes irritated or compressed.

The exact cause of the irritation is unknown, but it may be the metatarsal bones pressing against the nerve when the gap between the bones is narrow. This causes the nerve and surrounding tissue to thicken.

Some experts believe that a number of other foot problems, including flat feet, high foot arches, bunions and hammer toes, may also play a role in Morton's neuroma.

Read more about the causes of Morton's neuroma.

When to see your GP

If you have continual tingling or persistent pain in your foot, you should make an appointment to see a podiatrist (a specialist in foot problems). Alternatively, you could visit your GP, who may refer you to a podiatrist.

Your GP or podiatrist may examine your foot and ask you some questions to find out:

  • about the pain and what it feels like
  • when your symptoms started
  • what type of shoes you usually wear
  • about your work, lifestyle and sporting activities

They may also refer you for a scan, such as an X-ray, ultrasound scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, to get a detailed image of the inside of your foot.

Treating Morton's neuroma

If you have Morton's neuroma, shoes with a wider toe area may be recommended. You can also take painkillers to help ease the pain. Steroid injections may also be given to treat the affected nerve.

If these treatments don't work, surgery may be needed. This involves removing the thickened tissue around the nerve (and sometimes the nerve itself) to release the pressure.

Read more about how Morton’s neuroma is treated.

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