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Foot Fault - How I Treated the Neuroma in my Foot

Updated on May 9, 2015

I had had pain in the ball of my right foot for over a month. I had tried to alleviate it with giving myself foot massages and rolling a ball under my foot while applying pressure on it. I had also done some online research to find out what might cause the discomfort. Apart from minor, temporary improvements, all my attempts failed to (excuse the pun) step on the road to recovery. That’s when I decided to see a chiropodist.

The Chiropodist’s Diagnosis

After a short discussion about my symptoms, she looked at my foot and came to the conclusion that I suffered from Morton’s Neuroma. Had I not come across it earlier on the Internet, I would have been frightened by the severe, almost lethal sounding name; Morton’s Neuroma. However, from my previous research I knew that it is a condition especially common among women over the age of 40 and is caused by the abnormal functioning of the foot that leads to two bones squeezing a nerve between them.

What are the Symptoms of a Foot Neuroma?

As Dr Morton described it over a hundred years ago, a neuroma can occur between the third and the fourth long bones (metatarsals) in the forefoot. (If it occurs in between other long bones, it is not called Morton’s neuroma specifically.) As a result of the constant rubbing to the bones, the nerve becomes inflamed. Occasionally, the pinched nerve sends a shooting pain up into the toes. Generally, putting pressure on the ball of the foot becomes painful. It may feel as if there was a stone stuck under the ball of the foot but other times it may feel numb. All in all, it makes walking very uncomfortable.

Traditional Treatment Options

As I was planning to use both my feet equally for another 50 years or so, I eagerly asked the chiropodist how I could resolve the problem. She advised me to get special insoles, fitted with so-called metatarsal pads, at the least, that lift the bones between which the nerve is pinched thus spreading them a bit apart to reduce the pressure. She informed me it would cost €150.00 if I wanted them to order a pair of custom-made insoles for me. Alternatively, I could go online and browse for the curiously shaped ‘bumpy’ insoles (orthotics) in the ready-made ranges. If the insoles do not improve my condition, the next step would be to get steroid injections. And if even those fail to have a positive effect, the ultimate solution is surgery.

Advice on Footwear

She concluded the consultation by telling me that the shoes I was wearing, which by the way belonged to a well-known footwear brand, were not the best. The shoes which were made to be flexible on all sides and in the full length of the soles may be very comfortable to wear but they do not provide the arch of the foot with any support. It is only the front part of a shoe that is supposed to be flexible, precisely where the foot bends while walking. The rest of the shoe should be fairly rigid to support the arch and the heel. A lot of foot problems originate from the lowering of the arch. It changes the bone structure and puts extra pressure on other parts of the sole such as the ball and the heel.

Have I been wearing the wrong shoes? - High heels and pointed toe shoes can further increase the possibility of developing neuroma in the foot

On the Hunt for Insoles

Armed with all this information, I left the medical centre determined to find the right insoles online. I typed ‘insoles for morton’s neuroma’ in the search box and a good number of websites came up in the organic search results. They were all offering remedies for not only Morton’s Neuroma, but for other lower limb ailments such as metatarsalgia, plantar fasciitis, toe problems and similar conditions. I also found pictures of small triangular pads that are said to be suitable for curing my condition. I could not imagine though how these little ‘bumps’ would stay put in the right place in the shoes. Of course, I could stick them onto regular insoles, but where exactly should I position them? As I was struggling with these thoughts, a friend of mine recommended visiting the local branch of Foot Solutions. She praised the staff’s meticulous methods of measuring and examining aching feet before providing the customer with proper shoes. She was sure they would stock insoles too.

A Visit at Foot Solutions

At Foot Solutions, hardly had I taken in the wide range of selection in ‘orthotics’, when a member of the staff appeared behind the counter with an encouraging smile on his face. Upon being asked, I told him what my problem was and what I was after. He said the best solution for me would be to get custom-made supports, i.e. insoles, at a price of €298.00. I promised I would come back for those when I’m 86 if the problem still persists. I enquired for further options. He then revealed that they had ready-made insoles in stock for merely €99.00. It sounded like a bargain. I expressed my intention of buying a pair. And that’s when the fun began.

First, he handed me a form to fill in. Apart from the usual personal details, there were specific questions asked as to which area of which foot was affected. Did I have bunions, diabetes, recent surgery or circulatory problems? The last one on the list was ‘Neuroma’. I gladly dismissed the other options and ticked this box. My condition seemed like a joy-ride compared to the other issues.

Hands-on Examination

Once the form was completed, I handed it back to the nice man who in return asked me to take a seat in one of the comfortable leather armchairs and take off my shoes. I did as directed. I replaced my thick winter socks with light ‘pop-socks’. The man sat in front of me on a tiny stool and kindly asked me to first lift my left foot into his hands for inspection. I felt like one of those grand dames that I had seen in old black-and-white films. Wearing a silk dress and fur wrapped around her shoulders, she would sit comfortably in a shoe salon with a bored look on her well made-up face while the eager shopkeeper (always a humble man) would bring several boxes of footwear from the back of the shop. Then he would kneel in front of the idle feet of the lady and gently fit the shoes on. Despite the fact that I was no grand dame, this modern-day shoe merchant took his job equally seriously and engaged in foot-focused conversation with me while examining both my feet. When he praised my high arches and flexible ankles, I felt flattered almost to the point of blushing..

Computerised Measurements

After the manual procedure, we walked over to some device that looked like a weighing machine. Except this one was hooked up with a computer, and when I stepped on it a heat map of my soles appeared on the screen. Red dots showed areas where the body weight applied the biggest pressure, orange and yellow ones carried less weight and the areas that remained dark did not touch the ground at all. The only slight abnormality discovered here was the fact that I was pressing into the ground with the big toe of my right foot. One is not supposed to carry weight on the toes at all, I was informed.

After this, we walked over to another machine that was also hooked up with a computer. I stepped on the designated area with one foot while holding onto a rail for support. When the machine was switched on I could feel the pleasant sensation of tiny clusters of bristles rising under my feet as high as my skin and then stop thus creating a mould of my sole. The receptors of the bristles sent impulses to the computer that were transformed into data in the special software and soon enough a 3D image of an insole appeared on the screen, especially designed to fit my foot. That image gave my helper an idea how high the arches of my insoles should be.

A Few More Steps...

Finally, I had to pace up and down the length of the shop while the man knelt down to watch my foot mechanism. He wanted to see how my bones and muscles move in the feet from the moment they touch the ground to the point they lift off.

After summarizing all his conclusions of the examination, he pulled a pair of ready-made insoles out of a drawer, he applied some heat to them at the back of the shop to further adjust the shape to suit my feet. Deeply impressed by the level of service, I gladly paid the amount due and left with my own ‘foot solutions’

Insoles fitted with metatarsal pads are said to alleviate neuroma pain by lifting the bones that have a nerve trapped between them.

Click thumbnail to view full-size

What if the Insoles don't Do the Job?

Although I was wearing those slightly uncomfortable insoles religiously for a couple of weeks, I did not feel the pain gradually diminishing. Also, there was something else bugging me...I am a firm believer of the wonderful order in nature, knowing that everything is the way it is for a reason. The human feet were not naturally ‘designed’ to walk on a pair of padded insoles. How could these artificial intruders in my shoes bring my feet back to their natural function? Forever a doubting Thomas, I kept on searching the net for anything that could shed more light on my condition and perhaps offer an alternative route to recovery.

Discovering Alternative Treatment

This is how I came across Dr. James Stoxen’s wonderful article on www.teamdoctorsblog.com. After a lengthy description of Morton’s Neuroma, different diagnostic procedures, the so-called traditional treatments and their success-failure ratio, the ‘Barefoot Running Doctor’ went on to argue: “We already know that the nerve is pinched from pressure on the toes. So, then further jamming the toes in the bound shoe with a space occupying shim that doesn’t allow the bones to move? How do you approach the orthotic concept when you are barefoot? [...] The answer I am providing gives us additional options for more innovative and common sense examination approaches, preventive maintenance and treatment options...” Now, that was an attitude I could identify with immediately. I read on with enthusiasm to find and watch a number of instructional videos of foot massage techniques to alleviate neuroma-induced pain:

And Here’s What Worked for Me...

From here on, we are quickly approaching to the happy ending of my neuroma story. With the combination of practising daily Dr. Stoxen’s massage techniques after a hot soaking of my feet in Epsom salt water and rubbing in Arnica cream plus taking homeopathic pilules of Arnica 30c to clear the inflammation, within a couple of weeks my long-suffered right foot was finally back to normal!

Are you prone to develop neuroma in your foot?

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Comments

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    • Euphraxia profile imageAUTHOR

      Euphraxia 

      3 years ago

      Thank you for the compliment, Bernie! I'm glad you found it a good read!

    • profile image

      Bernie 

      3 years ago

      Brilliantly written very informative. Keep up dthe good work.

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