Pain > Foot Pain Diagnosis > Pain On Top of Foot
Pain On Top of Foot
Pain on top of our foot is actually a pretty common problem. You know something, every step we take places a force 150% body weight through our feet.
- If you're 50 kg, that's a 75 kg force through your feet.
- If you're 100 kg, that's a 150 kg force through your feet.
Most cases of pain on top of the foot are due to either an injury, overuse, wear and tear or even poor-fitting footwear.
Pain in the top of the foot may be caused by damage to the:
- Bones e.g. stress fractures, Sinus Tarsi Syndrome, Hammer, Mallet or Claw Toe & Tarsal Coalition
- Soft Tissues e.g. extensor Tendonitis or Tibialis Anterior Tendonitis
- Skin e.g.athlete's Foot
- Medical Conditions e.g. gout, ganglions or nerve damage
Small break in one of the foot bones e.g. metatarsal fracture
Symptoms: Severe pain, swelling and tenderness over the fracture
Cause: Repetitive overloading e.g. kicking, running, jumping, increased training
Article: Foot Stress Fractures
Sinus Tarsi Syndrome
Inflammation of the small, bony channel between the heel & ankle
Symptoms: ankle stiffness, instability, pain when walking/standing on top and side of foot
Cause: Ankle sprain, prolonged instability, altered foot biomechanics
Article: Sinus Tarsi Syndrome
Hammer, Mallet, Claw Toes
Toe deformities which alter the positions of the small bones
Symptoms: Stiffness, pain and abnormal curling of one or more toe
Causes: Tight, pointed shoes, toe injury, problems in nerves or blood vessels, arthritis
Article: Hammer, Mallet, Claw Toes
foot Extensor Tendonitis
Inflammation of the tendons on the top of the foot that lift the toes
Symptoms: Gradual increase in pain, swelling & tenderness over top of foot. Discomfort when wearing shoes
Cause: Tight shoes, flat feet, prolonged standing/walking, muscle tightness, off-road running
Article: Extensor Tendonitis
Tibialis Anterior Tendonitis
Inflammation of the tendon at the front of the ankle that lifts up the foot
Symptoms: Gradual increase in pain at front of ankle and top of foot, worse after rest
Cause: Overuse e.g. running, esp. off-road or downhill, muscle weakness & tightness
Article: Tibialis Anterior Tendonitis
A type of inflammatory arthritis that causes crystals formation in joints e.g. big toe, due to high uric acid levels
Symptoms: Sudden onset of intense pain (typically at night), redness, swelling, heat
Causes: purine-rich diet, hereditary, obesity and often linked with diabetes
Article: Gout Foot
Foot Rashes (athlete's foot)
Fungal infection of the skin, tinea pedis. Affects approx 15% population
Symptoms: Scaly, itchy, flaking skin, swelling and blistering
Cause: Poor foot hygiene, excess moisture, humid conditions, contagious
Article: Foot Rashes
Nerve Pain In Foot
Pinching or compression of nerve in the foot, leg or lower back
Symptoms: burning or shooting pain, pins and needles, numbness, foot weakness
Cause: Swelling, injury, spinal deformity, disc bulge
Full Article: Nerve Pain In Foot
Small lump filled with jelly-like fluid, found near foot joints & tendons
Symptoms: Small, pea-like nodule. Causes pain if presses on nearby structure e.g. nerve
Cause: Foot injury, aging, often unknown origin
Bony bridge connecting two or more of the foot bones. Affects approx. 1% of the population
Symptoms: Stiffness, instability and foot pain, typically in early adolescence.
Causes: Congenital condition (present since birth), often hereditary
Diagnosing Pain On Top Of Foot
Most of the time, pain on top of the foot will settle down, using
simple home treatments, within a week.
If the pain persists for longer,
or is severe, you should see your doctor.
When you consult the doctor, the doctor will ask you:
- when the pain started
- how it started
- if you have any other symptoms
- about any past foot or ankle injuries
- your normal activity levels
- what things make the pain better or worse
- if there is any pattern to your pain
they will examine your foot for any signs of swelling or deformity. The
will look at you walking and then look at the movement and strength in
and around your foot.
If the doctor suspects a bony injury, you will be sent for an x-ray. They may also order blood tests or an MRI.
Commonly Associated Symptoms
Pain on top of the foot is often accompanied by other symptoms which can help you to work out what is wrong:
- Gradual Onset Mild-Moderate Pain: extensor tendonitis (top of foot), tibialis anterior tendonitis (front of ankle)
- Severe, Sudden Pain: stress fracture (day), gout (night)
- Stiffness and Instability: sinus tarsi syndrome (after ankle sprain), tarsal coalition (early adolescence)
- Worse after Rest: tendonitis
- Worse with Activity: stress fracture, sinus tarsi syndrome, tendonitis
- Abnormal Toe Curling: hammer, mallet or claw toe
- Redness Big Toe: gout
- Small Lump: ganglion, stress fracture
- Itchy, Flaking Skin: athlete's foot
- Pins and Needles or Numbness: nerve problem
Treating Pain On Top Of Foot
Treatment for pain on top of the foot will depend on what the
underlying cause is.
If it is a minor problem with minimal pain and
swelling, you can usually treat yourself at home with a combination of:
- Compression Bandage (Tubigrip)
- Gentle exercises
- Reducing your activity levels
the pain is more severe, is getting worse, there is significant
swelling or you are unable to bear weight, you should see you doctor.
They may then advise:
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