Skip to main content

Why Does It Feel Like There's a Pebble in My Shoe?

Why Does It Feel Like There's a Pebble in My Shoe?

It feels like you’re walking with a pebble in your shoe — but when you look, there's nothing there. Sound familiar? It’s a frustrating and painful phenomenon, but you’re far from alone.

The feeling of a pebble or a marble in your shoe is a common symptom of a foot condition called Morton's neuroma. A Morton’s neuroma is an area of thickened nerve tissue that causes foot pain, but you don’t have to live with the discomfort.

Lisa Burson, DPM, and Joe Aoun, DPM, offer comprehensive foot care at The Foot & Ankle Specialists in Bay City, Caro, and Lapeer, Michigan. We understand the unique challenges that Morton’s neuroma can bring, and we’re here to help you find relief. Here’s what you need to know.

What is Morton's neuroma?

A Morton's neuroma often feels like a lump or tumor in the bottom of your foot, but it’s actually a nerve condition. It occurs when the tissue around one of the nerves that lead to your toes gets thicker, and it can cause a sensation akin to having a pebble in your shoe or a bunched-up sock.

Though it can happen in any of the nerves in the ball of your foot, it’s most common between your third and fourth toes. The exact cause of most Morton's neuromas isn't clear. However, factors like wearing tight or high-heeled shoes, participating in high-impact activities, or having certain foot deformities can increase your risk.

Recognizing the symptoms of a Morton's neuroma

The hallmark symptom of Morton's neuroma is the feeling that there’s a foreign object inside your shoe even when there isn't. You might feel like you’re stepping on a pebble, a marble, or another small object, but there’s nothing there when you check.

Morton’s neuromas can also cause burning or tingling sensations in the ball of your foot. You might experience numbness or a lack of sensation in the affected toes, along with pain or discomfort in the ball of your foot that gets worse when you walk or put pressure on the area.

Finding relief from your Morton’s neuroma pain

It’s uncomfortable to feel the sensation of a pebble in your shoe with every step, and the good news is that Morton’s neuromas are treatable. Early intervention and a comprehensive approach can relieve your symptoms and help you live more comfortably.

Dr. Burson and Dr. Aoun start by examining your foot, asking questions about your symptoms, and reviewing your medical history. Based on your needs, we may recommend a combination of treatments like:

Footwear modifications

Choosing shoes that have wide-toe boxes and low heels can help reduce pressure on the affected nerve. Avoid tight, narrow shoes and high heels whenever possible. Make sure you wear appropriate, supportive shoes when engaging in activities like high-impact sports.

Orthotic inserts

Along with proper footwear, we often prescribe custom orthotic inserts for our patients dealing with the symptoms of Morton’s neuromas. Custom orthotics provide additional support and cushioning, which helps redistribute pressure on your foot and relieve symptoms.

Physical therapy

Physical therapy for Morton’s neuroma includes specific exercises and stretches for your feet. Working with a physical therapist can help strengthen your foot muscles, improve flexibility, and alleviate symptoms associated with your Morton's neuroma.

After exercise, we may also recommend applying ice to the bottom of your foot for 10-20 minutes at a time to help reduce inflammation. Ice packs or frozen water bottles are both convenient options.


Depending on your needs, we might give you instructions to take over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen, to help reduce pain and inflammation. If your Morton’s neuroma is severe, corticosteroid injections could be a good option to minimize inflammation and provide temporary relief from more intense symptoms.

Many people find that proactive, conservative care helps relieve their Morton’s neuroma symptoms. But when conservative treatments fail to provide relief, we may discuss surgical options to help improve your foot function.

If you're experiencing the sensation of walking with a pebble in your shoe, it’s time to find out if it could be Morton’s neuroma. Schedule a consultation with Dr. Burson, Dr. Aoun, and our team at The Foot & Ankle Specialists to get the answers you need.

Call the office nearest you, or request an appointment online to get started.

You Might Also Enjoy...

What's the Difference Between Bunions and Bunionettes?

What's the Difference Between Bunions and Bunionettes?

You have a painful, hard lump on the side of your foot — but is it a bunion or a bunionette? The answer depends on where the lump is located, and recognizing the difference is the first step to getting the treatment you need. Find answers here.

Essential Training Tips If You're Prone to Shin Splints

Are you dealing with shin splints? The burning pain at the front of your shins can make you stop in your tracks, but it doesn’t have to keep you from reaching your goals. Find out how to adjust your training program to prevent shin splints.
Are Bunions Treatable Without Surgery?

Are Bunions Treatable Without Surgery?

Bunions are a common — and painful — foot problem. But if the thought of bunion surgery is daunting, you aren’t alone. Fortunately, you have options that don’t require going under the knife. Learn about effective nonsurgical bunion treatments here.
Do This Now If You Want to Avoid a Sprained Ankle Later

Do This Now If You Want to Avoid a Sprained Ankle Later

Even though a sprained ankle isn’t serious, it’s painful, inconvenient, and increases your risk for more sprains and chronic ankle instability. When it comes to ankle sprains, the best strategy is to prevent the first (or next) one. Here’s how.