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Interdigital Neuroma

(Morton Neuroma; Morton Neuralgia; Interdigital Neuralgia)


James C. Connors

, DPM, Kent State University College of Podiatric Medicine

Reviewed/Revised Nov 2023
Topic Resources

Interdigital (Morton) neuroma is a benign perineural fibrosis of a plantar digital nerve that can cause pain, which may be nonspecific, burning, or lancinating, or a foreign body sensation. An accepted misnomer, these neuromas are not neoplastic in nature without nerve tumor growth. Diagnosis is usually clinical. Treatment may involve correction of footwear, local injection, or sometimes surgical excision.

Interdigital neuroma is a common cause of metatarsalgia Metatarsalgia Metatarsalgia is a general term for pain in the area of the metatarsophalangeal joints. (See also Overview of Foot and Ankle Disorders.) Most common causes include Freiberg disease Metatarsal... read more . The interdigital nerves of the foot travel beneath and between the metatarsals, extending distally to innervate the toes. Neuroma of the interdigital nerve along its distal innervation near the ball of the foot develops primarily as a result of improper or constrictive footwear or, less commonly, nerve traction resulting from abnormal foot structure (eg, splayfoot deformity). As a result of chronic repetitive trauma, a benign thickening or fibrosis of the nerve develops (Morton neuroma).

Symptoms and Signs of Interdigital Neuroma

Interdigital neuroma is characterized by pain around the metatarsal heads or the toes, most frequently at the third intermetatarsal space, but it can occur in other (ie, first, second, or fourth) or multiple intermetatarsal spaces.

Early interdigital neuroma is associated with an acute inflammatory process and often causes an occasional mild ache or discomfort in the ball of the foot, usually when wearing a specific shoe, such as those that are too narrow at the front. Neuralgia is usually unilateral, but it can sometimes be bilateral.

As the condition progresses, perineural fibrosis occurs. The pain becomes worse, often with a burning or lancinating quality or paresthesias. In time, patients are unable to wear most closed-toe shoes. While walking, patients often falsely sense a pebble in their shoes, which they take off for relief.

Diagnosis of Interdigital Neuroma

  • Clinical evaluation

The symptoms of interdigital neuroma are often specific, and the diagnosis is confirmed by tenderness on plantar palpation of the interdigital space and by reproduction of the radiating burning pain, often accompanied by a notable click, by squeezing the space (Mulder sign). Although MRI does not usually confirm neuroma, it may be useful to rule out other interspace lesions or arthritis causing similar symptoms.

How to Examine the Foot
How to Examine the Ankle

Treatment of Interdigital Neuroma

  • Modification of footwear and injection

Neuroma of recent onset may resolve quickly with properly fitting shoes and insoles or with local anesthetic injection. Using a metatarsal pad placed proximally to the metatarsal heads of the affected interspace may also help reduce symptoms.

Persistent symptoms may require one or more perineural infiltrations of long-acting corticosteroids with a local anesthetic. Injection is at a 45° angle to the foot, into the interspace at the level of the dorsal aspect of the metatarsophalangeal joints (see Considerations for Using Corticosteroid Injections Considerations for Using Corticosteroid Injections Most foot problems result from anatomic disorders or abnormal function of articular or extra-articular structures (see figure ). Less commonly, foot problems reflect a systemic disorder (see... read more ). Orthotics with neuroma pads, rest, cold packs, and properly fitting shoes often relieve symptoms. Nerve ablation techniques, such as injecting 20% alcohol with a local anesthetic directly into the nerve with ultrasonographic guidance, radiofrequency ablation (1 Treatment reference Interdigital (Morton) neuroma is a benign perineural fibrosis of a plantar digital nerve that can cause pain, which may be nonspecific, burning, or lancinating, or a foreign body sensation.... read more ), or cryogenic freezing of the nerve may help relieve symptoms but alcohol sclerosing injections risk increasing perineural fibrosis.

If other treatments are ineffective, excision often brings complete relief. A true neuroma occasionally develops at the site of nerve excision (amputation or stump neuroma), which may require additional surgery.

Treatment reference

Key Points

  • Metatarsal pain can result from irritation or benign thickening of the interdigital nerves.

  • Initially, mild pain caused by wearing narrow shoes can worsen and become lancinating, sometimes with paresthesias and/or a foreign body sensation.

  • Diagnose the disorder by clinical findings, including tenderness and reproduction of symptoms with palpation of the interdigital space.

  • Treat by modifying footwear, giving local anesthetic injections and sometimes corticosteroid injections, doing nerve ablation techniques, or doing surgery.

NOTE: This is the Professional Version. CONSUMERS: View Consumer Version
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