Morton's Neuroma

A Morton’s neuroma is inflammation on one of the nerves in your feet. It causes pain and can make it feel like you’re stepping on a marble. You can probably manage your symptoms with at-home treatments and over-the-counter pain relievers. Morton’s neuromas aren’t actually tumors — they’re thickening in your existing nerve tissue.


An illustration of a Morton's neuroma on a nerve on a person's foot.
Morton’s neuromas form when a nerve between your toe bones is irritated and swells.

What is a Morton’s neuroma?

A Morton’s neuroma is inflammation on a nerve in your foot. More specifically, it’s an enlargement in the interdigital nerves between the metatarsal bones that connect your foot to your third and fourth toes (your middle toes closest to your pinkie toe). Some healthcare providers refer to Morton’s neuromas as intermetatarsal neuromas or interdigital neuromas.

If you have a Morton’s neuroma, the affected nerve is thickened and swollen. This can make it painful or hard to walk. You’ll usually feel pain on the ball of your foot, between your toes. It might feel like there’s a stone in your shoe or you’re stepping on a marble.

Visit a healthcare provider as soon as you notice any new pain or swelling in your feet. Getting treatment for Morton’s neuroma is important. The neuroma can become larger and cause permanent nerve damage if it’s not treated.

Is Morton’s neuroma a tumor?

The “neuroma” in Morton’s neuroma is slightly misleading. Neuromas are noncancerous (benign) tumors that form on nerves throughout the body. They grow extra nerve tissue alongside your healthy regular nerve.

A Morton’s neuroma isn’t new tissue growing on a nerve on your foot. It’s not really a tumor. Instead, your existing nerve tissue swells and thickens. Morton’s neuromas aren’t a symptom of cancer. They also don’t cause cancer.

How common are Morton’s neuromas?

Morton’s neuromas are common. Experts estimate that around 1 in 3 people has a Morton’s neuroma at some point in their life.


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Symptoms and Causes

What are Morton’s neuroma symptoms?

The most common symptoms of Morton’s neuroma include:

  • Pain between your toes when you stand or walk.
  • Pain that’s worse when you wear high-heeled shoes or stand on the balls of your feet.
  • Swelling between your toes.
  • Tingling (feeling pins and needles) and numbness in your foot.

Morton’s neuroma symptoms usually get worse over time. You might notice some minor pain at first that goes away with rest or after you take off your shoe and massage your foot. As the inflammation on your affected nerve gets worse, your symptoms will become more noticeable.

What does Morton’s neuroma pain feel like?

Morton’s neuroma pain is usually sharp, stinging or burning. It can also feel like you’re stepping on something. It might feel like:

  • Your sock is bunched up in your shoe.
  • There’s a small rock stuck in your shoe.
  • You’re stepping on a marble or stone under the ball of your foot.

What causes Morton’s neuromas?

Morton’s neuromas form when a nerve between your toe bones is irritated and swells. Experts aren’t always certain what causes the inflammation, but they think pressure on your toes, the nerves between them and the ball of your foot is the most common cause. Certain activities may increase your risk of developing a Morton’s neuroma, including:

  • Wearing high heels or shoes with narrow, pointed toes.
  • Playing a sport that requires you to put a lot of pressure on the balls of your feet, like running, tennis or other racquet sports.
  • Doing physical work that requires you to be on your feet all day.

Certain health conditions that affect your feet might make you more likely to develop a Morton’s neuroma, including:


What happens if a Morton’s neuroma is left untreated?

If a Morton’s neuroma isn’t treated, it can cause nerve damage or chronic pain in your affected foot. Visit a healthcare provider as soon as you notice any Morton’s neuroma symptoms. The sooner a provider diagnoses and treats a Morton’s neuroma, the less likely it is you’ll experience complications.

Diagnosis and Tests

How are Morton’s neuromas diagnosed?

A healthcare provider will diagnose a Morton’s neuroma with a physical exam. You might need to visit a podiatrist, a healthcare provider who specializes in caring for your feet.

Your provider will examine your feet. Tell your provider when you first noticed symptoms and if any activities or positions make them worse.

Your provider will put light pressure on the spaces between your toe bones. They might ask you to stand, walk or move.

Which tests do providers use to diagnose Morton’s neuromas?

Your provider can usually diagnose a Morton’s neuroma based on your symptoms and a physical exam. A foot X-ray won’t show a neuroma. But it can help rule out other common conditions that cause foot pain, like stress fractures and arthritis.

Your provider might use an ultrasound to take pictures of your nerve and the area around it. If the ultrasound doesn’t give them a clear answer, they may recommend an electromyography procedure. This test measures the electrical activity of your nerves and muscles. It can rule out nerve conditions that can cause symptoms like those of Morton’s neuroma.


Management and Treatment

What is the best treatment for Morton’s neuroma?

Your healthcare provider will suggest treatments that relieve your symptoms and reduce the inflammation in your affected nerve.

The most common Morton’s neuroma treatments include:

  • Footwear changes: Switching to shoes with wide, deep toe boxes can take pressure off your affected nerve. You may be able to use a stretching device to widen shoes you already own.
  • Shoe pads: Over-the-counter (OTC) shoe pads cushion the area around your nerve and relieve pressure.
  • Orthotic devices: Orthotics are shoe inserts that support your feet and keep your toes in the correct position. You might need over-the-counter orthotics or custom-made inserts.
  • Pain relievers: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) reduce pain and swelling. Don’t take NSAIDs for more than 10 days in a row without talking to your provider.
  • Icing: Applying ice or cold packs to your affected foot can relieve pain and reduce inflammation. Wrap a cold pack in a thin towel to avoid putting it directly onto your skin.
  • Corticosteroids: Corticosteroids are prescription medications that reduce inflammation. You may need cortisone shots.

Morton’s neuroma surgery

Most people don’t need surgery to treat a Morton’s neuroma. Your provider may recommend surgery if other treatments don’t relieve your symptoms or walking is extremely painful. Your provider or surgeon will tell you which type of surgery you’ll need and what to expect.

The most common surgical techniques include:

  • Neurectomy: A neurectomy is the most common surgery for Morton’s neuroma. Your surgeon will remove part of the affected nerve.
  • Cryogenic neuroablation: Your surgeon will use extreme cold to destroy a targeted amount of nerve cells. This will reduce the nerve’s inflammation and sensitivity.
  • Radiofrequency ablation: Radiofrequency ablation is using an electrical current to destroy a small amount of your affected nerve tissue with heat. This prevents pain signals from being sent back to your brain.

Do Morton’s neuromas go away on their own?

No, Morton’s neuromas don’t just go away, and you can’t fix one on your own. See a healthcare provider or podiatrist if you have Morton’s neuroma symptoms. They’ll diagnose it and suggest treatments to relieve your pain.


Can I prevent a Morton’s neuroma?

You can take steps to prevent a Morton’s neuroma:

  • Don’t wear tight or high-heeled shoes for long periods.
  • Wear shoes with a wide toe box, so your toes aren’t cramped or squeezed out of position.
  • When you’re more active, wear athletic shoes with plenty of padding to cushion the balls of your feet.
  • Try lower-impact exercises, or work with a coach or trainer to tweak activities to put less pressure on your feet.
  • Follow a diet and exercise plan that’s healthy for you.

Outlook / Prognosis

What can I expect if I have a Morton’s neuroma?

Most people with a Morton’s neuroma are able to find a combination of treatments that relieves their symptoms. You should be able to return to all your usual activities pain-free once your affected nerve is less inflamed. You might have to wear different shoes or change which kind of physical activities you’re doing, but you shouldn’t have any long-term impacts after having a Morton’s neuroma.

Can a Morton’s neuroma come back after treatment?

Morton’s neuroma symptoms can come back. Talk to your provider if you experience pain and symptoms after treatment.

Living With

When should I see my healthcare provider?

Visit a healthcare provider or podiatrist if you have:

  • Foot pain that doesn’t go away after two weeks of at-home treatment.
  • Pain that continues to get worse or comes back.
  • Pain that interferes with your daily activities.
  • Tingling or numbness in your foot.

What questions should I ask my healthcare provider?

  • Do I have Morton’s neuroma or another type of foot issue?
  • Will I need any tests?
  • Which treatments will I need?
  • Will I need surgery?
  • Do you recommend a specific kind of shoe or insert?

A note from Cleveland Clinic

A Morton’s neuroma is inflammation on a nerve in your foot. It can make walking, standing or doing your usual activities extremely painful. The good news is that most people with a Morton’s neuroma find a combination of treatments that relieves their symptoms.

Visit a healthcare provider or podiatrist if you’re experiencing foot pain, especially if it’s getting worse. They’ll help you understand what’s causing your symptoms and how to get back on your feet pain-free.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 05/21/2023.

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