What is Morton’s Foot Neuroma? Symptoms & Causes

September 15, 2020 2:10 pm Published by

Have you been feeling numbness or tingling in your toes— or notice visible swelling of your feet? These are all characteristics associated with a “pinched nerve” in your foot, formally called neuroma.

Let’s learn a little about the most common form of lower body neuroma— Morton’s—to see if your irritation could be linked to this troublesome foot issue.

What is Morton’s (Intermetatarsal) Neuroma?

Neuromas are growths of your nerve tissue. Although we’re focusing on neuromas of the feet, neuromas can occur in many parts of the body. Take acoustic neuroma for example, which manifests as a tumor on the main nerve leading from the inner ear to the brain. 

Neuromas in your feet are the result of a benign tumor that forms when the nerves in your forefoot are pinched between the metatarsal bones, hence why some call it a “pinched foot nerve.” 

The most common form of foot neuroma is called Morton’s neuroma and is a tumor that occurs between the third and fourth toes. 

While this area between the toes is the most common placement of the condition, foot neuromas can occur in other locations and go by different names.

Foot Neuroma vs. Neuropathy

Neuroma and neuropathy are often confused terms. While a neuroma is a tumor pinched between nerves, neuropathy is a nerve disorder categorized by damage of the nerves, often caused by elevated blood glucose levels as a result of diabetes. 

Simply put, one is a tumor between the nerves while the other is direct damage to the nerves themselves. 

Symptoms of Foot Neuroma

Those who suffer from Morton’s neuroma typically experience the following symptoms when wearing improperly fitted footwear or participating in a straining activity:

  • A tingling feeling in the toes or ball of the foot
  • Numbness in the toes or feet
  • Burning pain in the toes or forefront of the feet
  • Swelling between the toes or around the foot
  • The feeling of something trapped inside the ball of the foot
  • The feeling of sock bunching or an object trapped inside of the shoe

Foot neuroma pain or irritation typically worsens over time, so the degree of pain or discomfort will grow as the condition builds.

What Causes Foot Neuroma?

When the nerves in your feet are compressed or irritated, they can eventually cause the formation of a neuroma tumor. 

Because it is an issue of compression and inflammation, common causes of foot neuroma often include:

  • Improperly fitting footwear, often from high-heeled shoes that force the weight of your forefoot to cram as the result of excessive weight strain.
  • Foot deformities like bunions, hammertoes, flatfeet, which put excessive strain on the nerves in your feet.
  • Repetitive sports or motion, which irritate the ball of your foot or other foot regions and lead to long-term injury.
  • A Foot injury that causes damage to your nerves or leads to future damage of your nerves through inadequate recovery. Trauma that could cause inflammation or swelling of the nerves in your feet can result in neuroma too.
  • Obesity, which causes strain or pinching on your nerves. Read more about how excess weight can affect your feet and ankles here.

Diagnosing Foot Neuroma

Because neuroma is a tumor that only grows or worsens on the pain scale with time, it’s crucial to have your foot examined at the first suspicion of the foot condition.

A trained podiatrist can get the true diagnosis by taking an X-ray. Only a trained professional can offer the proper treatment regimen for the severity of your tumor’s size, location, and pain threshold.

Give us a call to set up an appointment at 239.936.5400, today.

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Welcome, Dr. Elaine Felix!


Dr. Felix has extensive training in treating all aspects of the foot and ankle including arthroscopy, sports injuries, trauma, reconstructive surgery, wound care, as well as forefoot and mid-foot surgery.
We are so excited to have her join our team!
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