Strange feelings in the feet – The Clinic

? For the past couple of years I have had an increasing sensation of socks bunching up underneath the balls of my feet. I’ve felt this while wearing dress socks and shoes, white single-layer socks and older running shoes for walking around the house, and even double-layer running socks and new running shoes. I have checked to the best of my ability and have not found any evidence of the socks actually being bunched up. I have read that this could be something like a pinched nerve. It does not hurt, and I don’t get blisters, but it is a very annoying feeling–how might I relieve it?

Alan MacArthur, Renton, WA

What you are experiencing strongly resembles Morton’s neuroma. There is a nerve that courses between your third and fourth toes which provides sensation to the skin between the toes. When this nerve is irritated, scar tissue develops, causing compression of the nerve. The build up of fibrous scar tissue is usually the source of the bunched-up sock feeling in your foot. Be sure to wear proper fitting, wide and well cushioned athletic shoes and avoid squatting and bending, which places more pressure on the nerve. You can take ibuprofen for this as well. If your condition does not respond to these conservative measures, excision of the neuroma is usually curative.

Matt Werd, DPM, Lake/and, FL

Folks who are wearing older shoes often fail to realize that the feet continue to enlarge over time and shoes shrink even as they break in and form to your feet. And many times the nerves might be getting microtraumatized by severely worn soles. Make sure your shoes are wide enough and fit properly. Another suggestion that has been confirmed as useful by my patients is to turn your socks inside-out so the smooth seam and smoother outside surface is in contact with your toes. A consultation with a podiatrist or an orthopedic foot specialist may prove useful to identify any structural factors that may be contributing.

Janet Simon, DPM, Albuquerque, NM

I often recommend using contact cement to adhere extra padding, such as a piece of Spenco insole, onto the under surface of the shoe tongue. This helps the shoe to better grip the midfoot. Shoes that don’t tie tightly around the midfoot allow the foot to travel forward with each running step. This causes compression of the forefoot and can lead to hammer toes, bunion of the big toe, neuroma, and callouses under the metatarsal head. This is the area in which you describe the sensation of socks bunching up.

Marvin Bloom, MD, Burlingame, CA

Consider tinea pedis (athlete’s foot) or peripheral neuropathy, which is any disorder of the sense and motor nerves outside of the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms can include numbness or tingling feelings, and are sometimes associated with diabetes. Another possible cause is Si radiculopathy, or a compressed nerve root.

Mitch Goldflies, MD, Chicago, IL

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