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What Is The Difference? Metatarsalgia Vs Morton’s Neuroma

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Your feet are designed to carry you through life. When they are in good working order, you will have the best mobility possible.

You can walk around, jump, run, and so much more. Because the feet are designed to carry so much weight around, you may find that they are going to run into a lot of common problems that you will need to worry about as well.

Two problems that you may begin to experience with your feet are known as Morton’s neuroma and metatarsalgia.

At first, it can seem like these are the same condition and metatarsalgia vs Morton’s neuroma can be hard to differentiate. They are considered two different conditions of the feet for you to handle as well.

Let’s take a closer look at the differences between these two conditions and some of the things you can do to help handle and treat both of them.

What Is The Difference Between Metartasalgia and Morton's Neuroma?

Foot pain can be a real drag, especially when it's in the ball of your foot. Two common culprits for this discomfort are metatarsalgia and Morton's neuroma. While the pain might feel similar in both cases, the underlying causes and treatments differ. Here's a breakdown to help you understand what might be causing your foot woes:

Metatarsalgia: The General Pain

Metatarsalgia is a general term for pain in the ball of the foot, affecting one or more of the metatarsal bones (the long bones connecting your toes to your midfoot). This pain can arise from various factors, including:

  • Overuse: Activities like running or jumping can put excessive stress on the metatarsals, leading to inflammation and pain.

  • Improper Footwear: Shoes that lack proper arch support or are too tight can contribute to metatarsalgia by causing abnormal pressure distribution.

  • Biomechanical Abnormalities: Flat feet, high arches, or bunions can alter the way your foot distributes weight, leading to metatarsal pain.

Metatarsalgia pain typically presents as a dull ache or burning sensation in the general area of the ball of the foot. It might worsen with activity and improve with rest.

Morton's Neuroma: The Pinched Nerve

Morton's neuroma, on the other hand, is a specific condition caused by the irritation or compression of a nerve between the toes, most commonly between the third and fourth toes. This compression can be caused by:

  • Repetitive stress: Similar to metatarsalgia, activities that put pressure on the forefoot can contribute to Morton's neuroma.

  • Tight footwear: Shoes with narrow toe boxes can squeeze the toes together, pinching the nerve.

  • Foot deformities: Bunions or hammertoes can also contribute to nerve compression.

The pain associated with Morton's neuroma is often described as a sharp, burning, or stinging sensation between specific toes. It might be accompanied by numbness, tingling, or a feeling like something is stuck between your toes.

Seeking the Right Diagnosis

If you're experiencing pain in the ball of your foot, consulting a healthcare professional is crucial for an accurate diagnosis. They can perform a physical examination, discuss your symptoms and activities, and potentially recommend imaging tests like X-rays or ultrasounds to differentiate between metatarsalgia and Morton's neuroma.

By understanding the distinction between these two conditions, you can work with your healthcare professional to develop the most effective treatment plan to get you back on your feet comfortably.

Metatarsalgia Vs Morton

What is Metatarsalgia?

The first condition we will take a look at is known as metatarsalgia. This is going to be a painful inflammation that is found in the ball of your foot or the part that is between the arch and the toes of the foot.

This condition gets its name from the five metatarsal bones that are found in the middle of the foot that connect to the toes.

There are a few different things that can cause this condition including overusing the foot during sports that will require you to jump and run all the time. In some cases, arthritis can cause the issue, foot abnormalities, and shoes that are not fitting all that well.

There are some symptoms that you can look for when it comes to this condition as well. And it is common for the pain to start slowly and then get worse as time goes on. If you rest the foot, it can get better, though it can get worse if you are exercising, walking, or standing. Some of the things you may notice are that the foot feels like:

  • You notice the toes are tingling and numb when you stand for too long.
  • You notice a shooting pain or sharp burning in the ball of the foot, whether you walk or you are trying to stand on your toes.
  • You feel like there is a pebble or marble stuck in your shoe that you can’t get rid of.

Some of the pain you are feeling may get worse when you are participating in some high-impact sports activities, you walk barefoot, you run, or you stand. You may need to sit down and give your feet a rest when you have a lot of pain from this.

What is Morton’s Neuroma?

The second condition that we need to look at is known as Morton’s Neuroma. This is a painful condition that will happen in the ball of the foot as well. But this one is going to be found more in the third and fourth toes of the foot, while the metatarsalgia is closer to the first toe. When you have this, it will involve the thickening of the tissue around the nerves that lead to the toe.

When this happens, it is going to cause burning and sharp pain in the ball of the foot. The toes that are affected can be numb, burning, or stinging.

The biggest cause of this condition is wearing high heels or tight shoes. You may find that picking out a pair of shoes that has a wider toe box or getting a pair of orthotics for your feet can help.

In some cases, you may suffer from Morton’s neuroma without any side effects at all. A 2000 study reviewed the medical records of 85 patients who had their feet checked with MRI and it found that 33% of those patients had Morton’s neuroma, but they did not have any pain at all.

There are a few things that will cause Morton’s neuroma in your feet. The main issue is that you are wearing shoes that are too tight or high heels. They can cause some of the nerves of the feet to become irritated or compressed. This nerve will then thicken and can become more painful when you decide to put more pressure on it.

Another issue could be a gait or foot abnormality. This can lead you to lose balance and will put a ton of pressure on the nerve of the foot. This condition can also be associated with hammer toes, bunions, high arches, and flat feet.

You are more likely to develop this condition if you participate in sports that require tighter shoes, such as ballet. In some cases, you may have this condition because there is a major injury to the foot as well.

How to Treat Metatarsalgia

The type of treatment that you choose for your metatarsalgia is going to depend on the cause and the severity of the pain. Usually, you can use some conservative measures, like staying off the feet, changing the shoes that you wear, or choosing an orthotic pad in the shoe to give you some relief.

When you are at home, there are a few remedies that you can choose such as:

  • Lose some weight if you are overweight
  • Taking a pain reliever to help with the inflammation and pain
  • Elevating your foot after you are done being in an activity
  • Icing the foot a few times, about 20 minutes each time.
  • Resting the foot when it is tired.

You may find that changing your shoe to something that is more comfortable and provides more of the support that you need can be good. You should take a break from high-impact sports and exercise and try not to wear high heels for a bit so the foot can feel better.

Depending on how much you are up and moving during the day, you may find that a pair of custom orthotics will make sense. These can have an additional pad at the toes to provide support and comfort, ensuring that you can get rid of some of the pain along the way.

Treating Metatarsalgia

How to Treat Morton's Neuroma

Morton's neuroma, that pesky pinched nerve between your toes, can bring sharp pain and a burning sensation that disrupts your daily life. The good news is, there are several effective treatment options available to manage this condition and get you back on your feet comfortably. Here's a breakdown of some common approaches:

Conservative Measures:

These non-invasive strategies are often the first line of defense in managing Morton's neuroma:

  • Rest and Activity Modification: Reducing activities that aggravate the pain can give the inflamed nerve time to heal. Opt for low-impact exercises like swimming or cycling instead of running or high-impact sports.

  • Footwear Matters: Ditch the narrow shoes! Opt for wider toe box shoes that allow your toes to spread naturally. Look for shoes with good arch support and adequate cushioning to distribute pressure evenly across your foot.

  • Ice Therapy: Apply ice packs to the affected area for 15-20 minutes at a time, several times a day. Wrap the ice pack in a thin towel to prevent skin irritation. The cold numbs the area and reduces inflammation, providing temporary pain relief.

Additional Support:

These tools can provide targeted support and pressure relief for the irritated nerve:

  • Metatarsal Pads: These gel or foam pads placed under the ball of your foot can help absorb shock and take pressure off the nerve.

  • Custom Orthotics: Bilt Labs custom orthotics, for example, can be designed with features like arch support and metatarsal pads to promote proper foot alignment and reduce pressure on the nerve.


In some cases, a healthcare professional might recommend injections for pain relief and inflammation reduction:

  • Corticosteroid injections: These injections deliver powerful anti-inflammatory medication directly to the inflamed area, offering targeted pain relief.

Minimally Invasive Procedures:

If conservative measures aren't effective, minimally invasive procedures might be considered:

  • Radiofrequency ablation: This procedure uses radio waves to heat and destroy a small portion of the nerve tissue, reducing pain signals.

  • Neuroma excision: In severe cases, surgical removal of a portion of the nerve might be necessary.

Remember, the most effective treatment plan for Morton's neuroma will vary depending on the severity of your condition and your individual needs. Consulting a healthcare professional is crucial for an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment approach. By incorporating a combination of these strategies, you can effectively manage Morton's neuroma and experience significant pain relief.

Bilt Labs Custom Orthotics

Both metatarsalgia, a general pain in the ball of the foot, and Morton's neuroma, a pinched nerve between the toes, can cause significant discomfort and disrupt your daily activities. While the causes differ, Bilt Labs custom orthotics can be a valuable tool in managing both conditions by offering targeted support and pressure relief. Here's how these personalized insoles can help:

Addressing Pressure Distribution:

Generic insoles offer a one-size-fits-all approach, which often falls short for specific foot conditions. Bilt Labs custom orthotics are crafted based on a pressure analysis and gait evaluation of your feet. This meticulous process allows them to address the unique pressure points associated with both metatarsalgia and Morton's neuroma:

  • Metatarsalgia Relief: By creating a more even distribution of pressure across the foot, Bilt Labs orthotics can reduce the excessive stress placed on the metatarsal bones, a common culprit in metatarsalgia pain.

  • Targeted Support for Morton's Neuroma: In cases of Morton's neuroma, Bilt Labs orthotics can be designed with features like metatarsal pads. These strategically placed pads help elevate and cushion the area beneath the ball of the foot, taking pressure off the irritated nerve.

Promoting Stability and Alignment:

Improper foot mechanics can contribute to both metatarsalgia and Morton's neuroma. Bilt Labs custom orthotics provide targeted support to address these issues:

  • Improved Biomechanics: The personalized design helps correct any imbalances or alignment problems in your foot, reducing stress on the metatarsals and the nerve between your toes.

  • Enhanced Stability: Bilt Labs orthotics offer a snug and secure fit within your shoes, preventing excessive foot movement and promoting overall stability. This can minimize micro-traumas associated with metatarsalgia and reduce the risk of further nerve irritation in Morton's neuroma.

Additional Benefits:

Beyond pressure relief, stability, and alignment, Bilt Labs custom orthotics offer additional advantages:

  • Shock Absorption: High-quality materials used in the orthotics help absorb shock with each step, further protecting the metatarsals and the irritated nerve.

  • Improved Comfort: The custom fit provides overall better foot comfort, reducing fatigue and pain throughout the day, regardless of whether you have metatarsalgia or Morton's neuroma.

Remember: Consulting a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan is crucial for both metatarsalgia and Morton's neuroma. Bilt Labs custom orthotics can be a valuable tool in your journey towards managing these conditions, offering pain relief, improved comfort, and a more confident gait.

Bilt Labs Custom Orthotics


While both metatarsalgia and Morton's neuroma cause pain in the ball of the foot, understanding the underlying causes and specific symptoms can help you identify the culprit behind your discomfort. Consulting a healthcare professional for a diagnosis is essential for developing a personalized treatment plan. Remember, early intervention and appropriate management strategies can significantly improve your condition and get you back to enjoying pain-free steps. Take our free quiz today to find out which orthotic type is best for your feet.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult with a qualified healthcare professional before making any decisions about your health. If you have any questions about your health or are experiencing any medical problems, please contact your doctor or other healthcare provider immediately. Do not delay seeking medical attention based on the information provided in this article.