Ever stubbed your toe, to have a sickening, searing pain hitting you that lasts a couple of minutes? Cool! That’s your nerves doing their job properly, telling you in no uncertain terms not to stub your toe again, please.
Now imagine you felt a pain like this in your toe and foot all the time, with no obvious source of the pain. For sufferers of Morton’s Neuroma, that is the reality of everyday life.
I was diagnosed with Morton’s Neuroma in June after experiencing the symptoms to some degree for years prior. It was only when it became unbearable and reduced me to tears after a walk one day that I decided I needed to get professional help. In this post, I’ll cover my experience with the condition and what I’ve been doing to address it – hopefully my experiences will help one of you!
Please bear in mind that I’m going to talk about how I’m managing my Morton’s Neuroma, following the advice my podiatrist has given me. This may not be the best way for you to manage your pain, so always listen to what health professionals have to say, but if you are struggling then this post may give you ideas. If nothing else, it’s comforting to know someone else is struggling like you, so feel free to send a message or drop a comment if you’d like to have a moan! I also know that a lot of people don’t like feet – myself included – hence why I’m wearing my Reebok Grace shoes and Stance socks in this post rather than waving my grubby toes around.
Morton’s Neuroma is when the nerve between your toes is irritated and the tissues around it become thickened, causing the toe bones (metatarsals) to squeeze the nerve. I liken the pain to a severe toothache in the toes, but others say it’s a burning or pricking sensation, and some get pins and needles in their toe. I also feel like I have a pin sticking into my foot as I walk.
Apparently mine is due to hypermobile metatarsals – so when my foot is on the ground, my forefoot splays out more than it should. Putting my foot into most shoes restricts how wide my foot can splay, meaning my metatarsals were squashed together, irritating the nerve.
Other causes are wearing high heels too often, both high and flat arched feet, bunions, high-impact activities, or even injuries.
I can remember having the pain as long as five years ago, but only when wearing heels. It became much more severe around six months ago when I began training for the Camino de Santiago, and I also remember there was a particular pair of shoes I was wearing often, which to look at now I realise were very narrow in the toe box. Hindsight is a fine thing, isn’t it?
Initially I went to a doctor, just in case it was gout or rheumatoid arthritis, the latter of which my mum has. The doctor referred me to a podiatrist who knew straight away it was Morton’s Neuroma – or at least, he did as soon as he squeezed my foot and found my toes to be hypermobile!
Initially I was given some insoles which supported my arch (see below, left), which in turn helps stop my toes splay out as much. These worked really well for the full 115km of the Camino de Santiago and I thought all my problems were over!
Unfortunately a few weeks after the pain began again, and I’ve since visited my podiatrist a few more times. He’s added on an extra part to my insole so there’s cushioning just behind where the neuroma is, which helps if it’s in the right position, but I do find myself trying to adjust it a lot. I’ve also had the toebox of my shoes blown out so they’re wider to accommodate my shovel feet!
There are steroidal injections that can be given and the nerve can also be completely removed. I’m dubious about both options – the injections are said to only work for a third of people, and can cause tissues around the neuroma to break down, too. The surgical removal means a longer recovery time, but removes the issue completely.
I wouldn’t wish this pain on my worst enemy, and really it’s my own fault it developed, so if you start feeling a burning pain in one of your toes I encourage you to see a podiatrist. The very least you can do is seek out shoes which are wide-fitting in the toebox and wear heels as little as you can get away with.
For now, I’m going to see how things go for me with wider shoes and the additional cushioning under my toes, but I’ll also be doing some research into the more invasive options in case they become necessary. It’s incredibly frustrating as an active person to be held back by something like this, but once it’s all sorted I will never take walking without pain for granted again!
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Welcome to That Squat Bot! I'm Sarah, a Personal Trainer based in Manchester, UK.
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