A plantar fibroma is a benign, or noncancerous, growth in the arch of your foot.
It develops in the plantar fascia, the thick, fibrous tissue at the bottom of your foot. This tissue covers the area from your heel to your toes and stabilizes your foot arch
A plantar fibroma, which grows slowly over time, can develop on one foot or both feet. The nodule is typically less than 1 inch in size.
A single lesion is referred to as a plantar fibroma. A condition called plantar fibromatosis can develop if the lesion starts to get larger and others develop on the plantar aspect, or sole, of your foot. This rare condition is also known as Ledderhose disease. The condition Dupuytren’s contracture causes similar nodules on the fingers and palms.
Although anyone can develop a plantar fibroma, it typically occurs in young or middle-aged adults. People assigned male at birth are also more likely to be affected.
A plantar fibroma typically appears on the bottom of your foot, namely in the middle of the arch.
Possible symptoms of a plantar fibroma or plantar fibromatosis include:
- small bumps that are mostly painless, at least in the early stages
- pain or discomfort if the nodule becomes larger
- pain or discomfort if external pressure is applied to a nodule, which can occur when:
- wearing shoes causes friction
- you’re walking for an extended period
- you’re standing barefoot
The exact cause of a plantar fibroma is unknown. Because it’s not exactly clear what causes a plantar fibroma or why, there’s no known way to prevent its occurrence.
Some experts suspect a genetic component. There’s a higher rate of plantar fibroma in people of Northern European descent.
Plantar fibroma vs. plantar fibromatosis
Plantar fibroma and plantar fibromatosis have different causes.
The American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society states that trauma doesn’t appear to play a role in plantar fibromas.
On the other hand, some experts, like those working at the Genetic and Rare Disease Information Center, state that there’s a connection between repeated trauma and plantar fibromatosis. An injury may cause tears in the fascia of the bottom of your feet, promoting the growth of nodules.
According to a 2020 review of studies, plantar fibromatosis is often associated with the following chronic conditions:
The connection between these conditions and plantar fibromatosis is unclear.
Some people with plantar fibroma or plantar fibromatosis may just feel a lump, and others may have pain or a tingling sensation at the site.
According to the Genetic and Rare Disease Information Center, 80 to 99 percent of people with plantar fibromatosis have joint pain or tingling.
If you suspect you have plantar fibroma, contact a doctor. This condition doesn’t usually heal on its own, and medical treatment may be necessary to relieve any pain caused by the nodule.
At your appointment, a doctor will conduct a physical examination of your foot. This includes pressing the nodule.
Although it’s possible to diagnose a plantar fibroma based on its appearance, a doctor may recommend additional testing. Imaging tests can confirm a plantar fibroma and rule out other conditions, like cysts, granulomas, and malignancies.
Possible imaging tests include:
In rare instances, a doctor may remove a sample of the tissue and perform a biopsy of the lesion for further investigation.
Plantar fibroma can sometimes regress on its own, but you’ll likely need treatment. The goal of treatment is to reduce any pain and discomfort and decrease the size of the nodule. Treatment is based on the severity of the nodule, so individual treatment plans may vary.
A typical plan will include at least one of the following treatments:
- Topical treatment. Transdermal verapamil 15 percent gel may inhibit the growth of fibrous tissue in the laboratory. The manufacturer claims that this gel, when used correctly, can reduce pain and discomfort within 3 months and remodel the affected tissue within 6 to 12 months. But the scientific evidence for this is very limited. The manufacturer also states that skipping or missing doses can slow the rate of recovery, so be sure to follow your doctor’s directions. After the tissue has been remodeled, recurrence is unlikely.
- Corticosteroid injections. A corticosteroid is an anti-inflammatory medication. Injecting a corticosteroid into the nodule can reduce pain and inflammation. If the inflammation goes down, it may become easier to walk, stand, and wear shoes. Although corticosteroid injections are effective for relieving any inflammatory process, the nodule may continue to grow.
- Physical therapy. Physical therapy helps break tissue accumulation in the foot. A physical therapist will help you develop a routine of strength training and stretching exercises that can increase blood circulation and stimulate cell growth. Increased circulation can also reduce inflammation and relieve pain caused by a plantar fibroma. But there are no published studies that show that physical therapy has a significant beneficial result in the treatment of plantar fibromas.
- Surgery. In severe cases, your doctor may suggest surgical removal of the fibroma. This procedure can flatten the arch of your foot and increase your risk of hammer toe, so it’s only used as a last resort. Recovery typically takes at least 6 weeks.
If you’re interested in home remedies for plantar fibroma, consider treatment with orthotics. This nonsurgical treatment involves the use of gel or foam pads and insoles to redistribute body weight and relieve plantar fibroma-associated pain. As a result, wearing shoes and standing may become more comfortable.
Orthotics may be beneficial if the growth is small and hasn’t changed in size. Although their usefulness is questionable, there’s no risk in trying them.
If over-the-counter insoles aren’t improving your symptoms, speak with your doctor about custom options. Keep in mind that the usefulness of custom orthotics has also been questioned.
Contact your doctor if you develop a bump on your foot and the pain interferes with your ability to walk or even stand still.
A plantar fibroma affects people differently. Some develop a small growth that doesn’t cause discomfort, while others experience persistent pain that does not respond to conventional therapies.
Treatment may provide short-term or long-term relief. But growths may recur if you’re prone to developing plantar fibromas.