Q. I often get a sharp pain between my toes when I walk, and feel as if I have a stone in my shoe. What could be causing this?
A. It sounds as if you may have what’s known as Morton’s neuroma, an abnormal thickening of tissue that surrounds one of the digital nerves between the long bones (metatarsals) in the foot.
In addition to feeling like you’re walking on a marble or a stone, the ball of your foot may be painful and your toes may feel numb. The pain likely is worse when you’re moving around or wearing shoes.
The typical Morton’s neuroma sufferer is a woman, and the condition usually develops between the third and fourth toes. High heels and narrow footwear can worsen the problem because of the compression they cause.
Once your doctor confirms the diagnosis, he or she will likely advise you to ditch your heels and wear wider, more comfortable shoes. If that doesn’t help, custom inserts and pads can relieve some pressure. Corticosteroid injections also may be used to reduce swelling and inflammation.
Studies have demonstrated that a combination of better footwear, custom foot inserts, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and injections to relieve acute pain and inflammation can solve the problem in 80 percent of cases.
Otherwise, surgical resection of the nerve and the tissue around it may be warranted.
Laurie Saloman, M.S., is a health writer with more than 20 years of experience working for both consumer and doctor-focused publications. She’s a graduate of Brandeis University and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, and lives in New Jersey with her family.