Morton's Neuroma IllustrationDoes it frequently feel like there’s a pebble poking into the ball of your foot, but when you take your shoe off to check, there’s nothing there? A neuroma may be to blame for this frustrating phenomenon. Sometimes called nerve tumors, neuromas are benign, but troublesome, growths of nerve tissue that affect the forefoot, causing an array of symptoms that include burning and stinging sensations. When these growths form between the third and fourth toes, they’re known as a Morton’s neuroma. Here’s what you should know about this common podiatric problem, including how the skilled foot and ankle specialists at Shenandoah Podiatry can help you put a painful neuroma behind you and prevent it from returning.

Neuroma Signs and Symptoms

Neuromas involve a thickening of the tissue surrounding the nerves that lead to the forefoot and toes. However, the condition produces no bumps or other external indications. Instead, the first thing you’ll likely notice if you have a neuroma is that pesky pebble that isn’t there or the feeling that you’re standing on an uncomfortable wrinkle or fold in your sock. Other symptoms include burning and stinging pain in the forefoot and between the toes, numbness and tingling in the ball of the foot, swelling between the toes, and pain in the ball of the foot in response to weight bearing. It can make walking particularly painful, but stopping, taking off your shoe, and rubbing the affected area of the foot may provide temporary relief.

Causes and Risk Factors

The exact cause of neuromas isn’t known, but factors such as irritation, pressure, injury, and repetitive stress can contribute to their formation. While anyone can develop a neuroma, the following groups are most at risk for this condition:

  • Women who regularly wear high-heeled shoes (with heels higher than two inches)
  • Men and women who opt for tight shoes with narrow toe boxes
  • People who participate in high-impact sports and athletic activities
  • People who work in jobs that require them to stand for extended periods
  • People who have high arches, bunions, hammertoes, flatfeet, or other biomechanical deformities

Treating and Preventing Podiatric Neuromas

For a developing neuroma that causes only minor pain or discomfort, modifying your activities to let your feet rest and opting for footwear with plenty of room for toes to move freely may provide sufficient relief. However, without proper treatment, this can worsen. If your pain doesn’t improve after a few days of home care—or you have diabetes or another health problem that can affect the feet—make an appointment with a podiatrist. The sooner you see a doctor, the more options you have for treatment. Depending on the severity of your condition, our recommendations may include the following:

  • Lifestyle and footwear changes
  • Padding and taping
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs or cortisone injections
  • Custom orthotics (shoe inserts)
  • Physical therapy
  • Shockwave therapy

In some cases, surgical intervention may be required to relieve the pressure on the affected nerve or remove the benign growth. We believe most symptoms can be successfully treated with non-surgical methods. As a result, you can count on us to save surgery as a last resort.

Neuroma Prevention

In addition to treating an existing neuroma, we can also offer advice that may help to prevent them from coming back.

  • Make sure your exercise or sports shoes provide plenty of room for your toes
  • Wear shoes and socks that comfortably cushion the ball of the foot
  • Avoid spending a lot of time in shoes with narrow toe boxes or heels higher than 2 inches

Schedule an Appointment at Our Roanoke Podiatrist Office 

Stop letting a painful neuroma get between you and the activities you enjoy. Complete the online contact form or call Shenandoah Podiatry’s Roanoke, Virginia office at 540-904-1458 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Jennifer Keller or Dr. Natalie Allen. We’ll perform a thorough evaluation to identify the source of your pain, then work to match you with the treatment option that best fits your needs, goals, and lifestyle.