Morton’s neuroma is a painful foot condition that affects one or more of the nerves between the toes.
What is Morton’s 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. The amount of pain experienced can range from a slight tingling sensation to an intense burning sensation which stops sufferers from being able to go about their daily lives. Morton’s neuroma can occur on one foot or both feet and though it is rare, some patients can develop more than one neuroma in the same foot.
Generally a neuroma is a thickening of the sheath tissue of the nerve and can develop in various parts of the body. There are other types of neuroma which can develop in the foot, such as a stump neuroma, but Morton’s neuroma is the most common. Unlike elsewhere in the body foot neuromas are not tumorous in nature.
Morton’s neuroma may sometimes referred to as an intermetatarsal neuroma. In most cases the neuroma will occur between the second and third, or third and fourth toes.
Morton’s neuroma can affect anyone of any age, however it is most common in females, aged between 30 – 60. We have found that while around 75% of our patients are female and generally middle-aged, it is not at all uncommon to see neuromas in men and young adults, particularly if they have an active hobby or career.
Morton’s Neuroma Causes
Anything that causes compression or irritation of the nerve can lead to the development of Morton’s neuroma in the foot.
One of the most common offenders is wearing shoes that have a tapered toes box (end of the shoe where your toes sit). When wearing a pair of shoes that has a tight or tapered toe box, the toes and metatarsal bones are compressed. This will lead to the metatarsals rubbing against the inter-digital nerves causing irritation of the nerve and thickening of the nerve sheath, resulting in painful symptoms.
Another potential causes of Morton’s neuroma are activities that involve repetitive irritation to the ball of the foot and toes. Such activities can include sporting activities such as long distance running, court sports (tennis, squash, badminton), and dancing. However, simply having an active job which requires you to be moving and on your feet for an extended period of time, such as police and nursing staff and labourers could also lead to the development of a neuroma.
Some people simply have a foot type that is more prone to the development of Mortons’ neuroma. This could be due to mechanical irritation of the foot in the foot, from something as simple as walking. There may also be an abnormal foot structure, which can also lead to the irritation of the nerve. People with certain foot deformities such as bunions, hammertoes, flat feet or more flexible feet are at higher risk for developing Morton’s neuroma.
Finally, an injury or type of trauma to the foot or toes, such as a fracture or sprain may also lead to a Morton’s Neuroma.