Runner with foot pain? You’ve got some nerve

(Cedar Grove, NJ)  Runners face a host of aches and pains which they are notorious for pushing through.  Some foot pain can be exacerbated by narrow sneakers, pointed-toed shoes at work and the repetitive pounding from running on hard surfaces.  These factors can cause a neuroma, a painful nerve disorder of the feet. A nerve located between the toes becomes enlarged and inflamed and produces tingling, burning pain.

Matthew F. Wachtler, DPM, FACFAS, is a member of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons and reminds his patients that symptoms begin gradually and, if left untreated, progressively worsen. Female professionals who wear high heels every day at work and also are active runners may cause a very stressful combination for their feet.

Dr. Wachtler explains that neuromas enlarge as the condition progresses, causing pain and numbness to a consistent area at the base of the toes. Patients often complain it feels as if something is stuck inside the ball of the foot or as if they are walking on something.

The symptoms may go away temporarily by massaging the foot, wearing wider shoes with low heels, and avoiding running and other activities that aggravate the condition.  Symptoms become more intense as the nerve enlarges and the temporary damage becomes permanent, so it’s best to seek treatment if discomfort persists for more than a few days.

Neuromas can develop in different areas of the foot. The most common occurrence is called Morton’s neuroma, which develops at the base of the third and fourth toes. Thickening and swelling of the nerve usually is caused by compression and irritation from wearing very narrow shoes or high heels that crunch the toes in the front of the shoe. In addition, neuromas can result from running, racquet sports and other physical activities that exert repetitive stress on the forefoot.

A neuroma isn’t detectable by x-ray, so the diagnosis is based on symptoms and a physical examination to palpate the nerve or a maneuver that elicits an audible click.

Treatment options for Morton’s neuroma depend on how far the condition has progressed. At early stages, padding lessens pressure on the nerve, icing reduces swelling, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications decrease pain and inflammation, and prescription or custom orthotic devices provide support to reduce compression. Patients also are advised to wear wider shoes with low heels and take a break from running or other activities until the condition improves.

In severe cases, injections or surgery might be the best option to provide relief.

For more information on neuromas and other foot and ankle conditions, contact Dr. Matthew F. Wachtler’s office at 973-857-1184 or visit www.cedargrovefoot.com

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