By Audi, Already Pretty Contributor
Today I’ll be discussing my ongoing battle with foot pain caused by Morton’s neuroma, and what I’ve learned about it so far. I’ve included a resource list at the bottom of the post for convenience.
About 13 years ago I started noticing intermittent pain in the ball of my right foot. Generally it would feel as if the bones between my third and fourth toes were cracking together, and sometimes it was more of a stabbing or burning sensation. Eventually the pain became more frequent and started cropping up in the left foot as well, and recently I decided to take serious action and get it under control. It started with research which led me to conclude that I had Morton’s neuroma, a hypothesis that was confirmed when I finally saw a podiatrist.
A neuroma is an inflamed nerve, and a Morton’s neuroma occurs between the third and fourth metatarsals. When you walk, your first three toes and the last two toes move up and down in groups; at the junction where this movement occurs, the nerve in between the toes can become pinched and eventually thickens. I suspect that my condition was largely caused by shoes that are too narrow. Until I measured my feet and compared them with a size chart, I never realized I had wide feet. I also have low arches, which explains why many shoe inserts don’t work for me; if they have dramatic arch support, they push into my arches and place even more pressure on the ball of my foot.
My own research led me to take several actions that are mostly preventative, and using this multi-pronged approach has definitely shown some benefit. Note that most or all of the items on this list will benefit other foot conditions besides neuromas:
- Acupuncture: increases circulation, relaxes the muscles and ligaments
- Yoga: The benefits of yoga are too numerous to list here, but the bottom line for neuromas is that stretching, especially the calves, is good. I just have to be careful not to do any poses that cause foot pain, of which I haven’t found too many.
- Shoes: Since shoes were likely the culprit to begin with, I’ve done the most work in this area. I culled many pairs of shoes that had been problematic and invested in several comfortable, supportive new pairs. More on this later.
- Inserts: A few inserts do work for me, the most notable being Superfeet. Pricey but well worth it. Neuroma pads can also work, but placement is critical; they belong behind the ball of the foot, not under it.
- Topical anti-inflammatories: I’ve been treating my feet morning and night with Traumeel to combat inflammation, and on days I feel pain I use Bio-Freeze for more immediate relief.
- Toe stretchers: I bought a pair of Yoga Toes Gems, which I keep in the freezer. When I get home I put them on, put my feet up, and relax for 30 minutes or more. I would recommend this for everyone, sore feet or no. It just feels fantastic.
Just kill me if it ever comes to this.
For a neuroma, the most important aspects of shoe selection are room in the toe box, heel height, and flexibility. I’ve known empirically that wedges work for my feet, but now that I understand the mechanics of the condition, I can see why. Low heels of 1 – 1.5 inches are better than flats because they distribute your weight more evenly between the heel and the ball of the foot, and a wedge-type heel provides support throughout the foot and makes the shoes less flexible than those that leave a gap under the arch. Higher heels can place too much pressure on the ball of the foot, though platforms can work well because they increase the overall height without increasing the angle of the foot. Finally, shoes with ample room in the toe box allow the bones of the foot to spread out and not rub against the nerve as the foot flexes. Keeping these aspects in mind as I shop has allowed me to make smarter choices in footwear.
In future posts I’ll discuss the changes to my shoe collection and how they influence my outfits. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you: if you’re dealing with foot pain, what approaches do you take to alleviate it, and most importantly, what great shoes do you recommend?
- How to Measure Your Feet
- Shoe size chart
- Northcoast Foot Care and Foot Health Facts have a wealth of information on many foot conditions.
- Barking Dog Shoes is a fabulous resource for finding comfortable shoes.
- Products: Superfeet inserts, Traumeel, Bio-Freeze, YogaToes Gems, neuroma pads
- A few shoe brands I’ll recommend: Earth, Geox, Bastien, Cobb Hill, GoLite, Cole Haan, Sofft, Dansko, and Born. I haven’t had great success with Keen, but many swear by them.
_ _ _ _ _
Audi is a biotech professional in San Francisco, California. Her blog, Fashion for Nerds, was born out of the frustration of feeling as if science and fashion were doomed to be forever divided. Through her blog she discovered she wasn’t the only one who believes that style has its place even in a scientific workplace; over the years she has met countless other women who struggle to prevent their love of fashion from hindering their credibility as technical leaders. Now in her mid-forties, Audi particularly enjoys testing the boundaries of “age-appropriate” dressing and thinks most style rules were made to be broken. Another important influence on her style is the problem of chronic foot pain, an issue which is exacerbated by San Francisco’s hilly streets and one that she is resolved not to let defeat her obsession with great looking shoes.