Runners often cite the wide array of health benefits—physical, mental and emotional—as their motivation to keep logging the miles. But like any strenuous physical activity, running can also lead to overuse injuries. One of those injuries affecting women in particular is a foot pain so intense that it prevents them from running at all—the painful neuroma.
A neuroma is a common foot condition, especially among women. Research has found that female runners are often plagued by intense foot pain that is caused by an unassuming culprit: fashion. Women tend to wear fashionable shoes that are narrow with pointed-toes only to then pound those squished, weary feet into the pavement on training runs. This pattern sets women up for a neuroma.
We find in our practice that active women who enjoy running are prone to neuromas, especially if they regularly wear narrow shoes and have flat feet. A neuroma occurs when a nerve located between the toes becomes enlarged and inflamed and produces tingling, burning pain. The most common type is a Morton’s neuroma, which develops at the base of the third and fourth toes. Symptoms begin gradual and, left untreated, progressively worsen. Patients often complain that neuroma pain feels as if something is stuck inside the ball of the foot. Relief for the symptoms may come by massaging the foot, wearing wider low-heeled shoes and avoiding running or other activities that aggravate the condition.
Treatment options depend on how far the condition has progressed. At early stages, padding lessens pressure on the nerve, icing reduces swelling and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications or injection therapy decreases pain and inflammation. Prescription or custom orthotic devices provide support to reduce traction and stress to the nerve. Patients are advised to take a break from running or other aggravating activities until the condition improves. In severe cases, outpatient surgery to remove the affected nerve might be the best option to provide relief.
The key to success is early treatment. If you experience pain in your feet, make an appointment with our office for a proper evaluation.