Pain on Top of Foot, Sharp, near Toes, Ankle, after Running, Get Rid

What causes pain on top of your foot? A look at the pain on top of foot, which is sharp, near toes, ankle, after running as well as method of how to get rid of it.

pain on top of foot

pain on top of foot

Pain on Top of Foot

There are very many causes of having pain on the top of foot. The type of pain and its location assists the doctor to determine the cause of the pain and assists to direct them in the best treatment for the patient

Pain of sudden onset without injury on the top of the foot that is just behind the toes might be a stress fracture of a metatarsal bone. There is a frequent swelling in the area and it is painful to touch.

Another common area where pain occurs near the middle of the top of the foot, usually a bit to the outside of the foot. In this particular area of the foot the tendons that go to the toes might become inflamed. This is known as extensor tendonitis. One cause of the condition is the excessive tightness of the calf muscle.

When the calf muscle is very tight it places excessive stress on the tendons on the top of the foot that pull the foot upward and mostly against the tightness of the calf muscles. Wearing of a shoe with a one-inch heel will assist to take the stress off of the tendons on the top of the foot.

Aggressive stretching of the calf muscle is also helpful. Oral anti-inflammatory medications might assist. When the measures do not work a functional orthotic should be tried. The orthotic corrects the alignment of the foot by taking the stress off of the tendons pain on the top of the foot.

More generalized pain on the top of foot with swelling to the foot can be brought about by degenerative arthritis. This is observed in people who have flatfeet or a slowly collapsing arch.

Another area of degenerative arthritis that leads to the pain on the top of the foot is in the area of the big toe joint. Jamming of the joint will lead to bone spurring to happen on the top of the foot. Pressure from the shoe can lead to the pain on top of foot.

Treatment for the conditions consists of taking oral anti-inflammatory medications and functional foot orthotics. Surgery might be an option for the degenerative arthritis about the big toe joint.

Generalized pain in the top of the foot that happens to children and the young adults can be due to a condition known as Tarsal Coalition. This pain tends to happen on the outside part of the top of the foot. A tarsal coalition is the abnormal fusion of about two or more bones in the mid portion of the foot. It may also be hereditary.

It tends to get much worse with activity. If not treated in its early stages it can lead to significant arthritis in the foot leading to a limitation in the person’s activity. Early medical diagnosis is made with x-rays and a MRI. Treatment is with the use of functional orthotics and on occasion surgery. Early diagnosis and treatment is very important.

Pain can also happen on the top and inside of the foot. In people with very active sporting activities can develop pain in this very area. The pain can be because of a stress fracture of one of the bones in the area. Diagnosis may sometimes be very difficult. X-rays are normally negative and if a stress fracture is present the diagnosis might require a bone scan. Treatment consists of rest with a limitation of activity, oral anti-inflammatory medications, functional orthotics or rarely surgical exploration of the area.

Yet another area of pain on the top of foot is just the below part of the ankle joint on the outside portion of the top of the foot. In this area of the foot there is a small fleshy area. This fleshy area is a small muscle known as the Extensor Digatorum Brevis.

Below the muscle there is a small canal between two bones. This area is known as the Sinus Tarsi. In this area there are three very small ligaments that can become much inflamed. A common cause of this pain is because of flattening of the foot that pinches these small ligaments. Sometimes there is an actual jamming of the two bones leading to the pain.

Treatment consists of stretching the calf muscles to reduce its effect of flattening the foot, oral anti-inflammatory medication, functional orthotics and sometimes surgical exploration.

Sharp Pain on Top of Foot

1)  Stress Fractures

The most common cause of sudden pain on top of foot without a specific injury

It is a small break in one of the foot bones, commonly one of the metatarsals

Causes: Repetitive overloading of the foot including jumping, kicking and running more especially if there is muscle weakness and also tightness or even a sudden increase in activity levels

Symptoms: Pain on top of foot that may be very severe.  Tender to touch and also a swelling around the area

Treatment Options: Rest (you may require crutches to keep the weight off the foot for a fewf weeks), ankle or foot brace, medication and sometimes surgery

2) Extensor Tendonitis

What Is It: Irritation and inflammation of the tendons that are on the top of the foot

Causes: Shoes that are too tight, , spending long periods on the feet, altered foot biomechanics, walking or running on uneven surfaces or simply dropping a heavy object on the foot

Symptoms: Gradual onset of swelling, bruising as well as pain on top of foot.  Tender to touch and can be very uncomfortable wearing shoes

Treatment Options: Change how you lace the shoes, use orthotics,  ice the foot, employ ultrasound, get a course of injections or try to stretch the calf muscles
3)  Sinus Tarsi Syndrome

This is a very uncommon foot problem that tends to lead to localized pain on top of the foot towards the outside of the ankle

What Is It: Inflammation and irritation around the Sinus Tarsi, a small channel that is between the ankle and heel bone that ligaments, blood vessels as well as nerves pass through

Causes: It most commonly happens due to instability, often because of an ankle sprain. It can also be brought about by the poor foot biomechanics, or even repetitive activities such as ballet and baseball

Symptoms: Foot pain on top and also outside of the ankle that gets better with a rest and worse with activity. Ankle stiffness in the morning that eases with movement. Instability and tenderness to touch

Treatment Options: Ice, exercises, joint mobilizations, stability in training.  Complete rest from all the aggravating activities is important

4) Hammer Toe

These are the most common cause of pain on top of foot affecting the toes.

What Are They: They are deformities in the toes that affects the positions of the small toe bones

Causes: Poor fitting footwear is the most common reason for this type of top of foot pain, either high heels or even shoe that has a narrow toe.  They may also develop secondary to a toe injury, a neural or vascular problem or even the arthritis

Symptoms:
 Pain as well as the stiffness in the toes.  Abnormal toe positions.

Associated Problems:
 Corns and calluses usually  develop on the toes secondary to the Hammer, Claw and the Mallet toe

Treatment Options:
 Good fitting footwear and toe stretchers like the Yoga Toe, exercises, injections as well as surgery

5) Gout

Another cause of pain on top of foot, usually around the big toe

What Is It: A type of inflammatory arthritis that is due to high levels of uric acid that can lead to crystals to form in the joints, most commonly the big toe

Causes: Certain medical conditions like diabetes can make a person to be more prone to developing gout, diet (food and drink rich in purines) and genetics

Symptoms: Sudden onset of the intense pain, swelling, heat and tenderness, commonly starting at night time.  Symptoms normally settle within a few of weeks

Treatment Options: Medication, ice, steroids

6)  Nerve Entrapment

What Is It: This pain on top of foot happens when a nerve on the top of the foot gets pinched or even squashed

Causes:
 Swelling from an injury to the foot, or dropping something heavy onto the top of the foot

Symptoms:
 Shooting or burning pain on top of foot sometimes accompanied by pins and needles and/or numbness

Treatment Options:
 Good fitting footwear, rest, ice and elevation

7)  Athlete’s Foot

Athlete’s foot can happen anywhere on the foot and only affects about 15% of the population globally at some point in their lives.

It is a fungal infection of the skin aka tinea pedis

it is caused by Poor foot hygiene. Anything that increases the amount of moisture around the foot like wearing of tight shoes, warm humid conditions.  Athlete’s foot is very contagious and might be passed from one individual to another or through contaminated surfaces like towels, floors and showers

Symptoms:
 Foot pain on top, side as well as at the bottom. Scaly and flaking skin that is often itchy.  If left untreated, might develop swelling and blisters

Treatment Options:
 Good hygiene measures, going barefoot, anti-fungal medication, using of tea-tree oil.  If left untreated the condition may get so bad that amputation is needed

8)  Ganglion Cyst

What Is It: This is an area of swelling that is normally filled with a jelly-like fluid, normally around the joints of tendons in the foot.  They are usually harmless

Causes: Might be related to aging or can develop after an injury when a fluid escapes from the joint capsule and pools in the nearby soft tissues thus forming a ganglion cyst.  Often there is no obvious cause.

Symptoms: 
 Small ball of swelling ranging from the size of a pea to a golf ball.  Usually pain-free unless it is pressing on the nearby structure like a nerve

Treatment Options:
 Most of them disappear over time without any treatment. The fluid may be removed using a needle, called aspiration or the ganglion might be surgically removed but in both cases they recur in 1 in 5 people

9)  Tarsal Coalition

Tarsal Coalition is where 2 or more of the tarsal bones in the foot are joined together using a bridge of bone.  Affects about 1% of the population

This is a congenital problem (present since birth) and normally displays a genetic link. Usually affects children that are aged 10-15 years old leading to foot pain, stiffness and instability.
Can cause recurrent foot and ankle sprains and abnormal foot biomechanics like flat feet

Treatment Options:
 Orthotics, immobilization in a cast, surgery

10)  Tibialis Anterior Tendonitis

What Is It: Inflammation and the degeneration of the Tibialis Anterior Tendon at the front part of the ankle

Causes: Overuse or the excessive stress via the tendon e.g. running and snowboarding particularly going downhill or even on uneven surfaces.  Muscle weakness as well as tightness, poor foot biomechanics, inappropriate exercise technique

Symptoms: 
Pain on top of foot and the front of the ankle.  Worse after activity or even prolonged rest.  Symptoms normally come on gradually

Associated Problems:
 Actions like kneeling or even kicking a ball are normally painful

Treatment Options:
 Rest, exercises, graded return to activity, orthotics

Pain on Top of Foot near Toes

Stress on the metatarsal bones (the five toes in the front of the foot) can lead to tiny cracks in the bones. This is a very common injury for the athletes, dancers, and those who return to exercising after a very long layoff.

Pain on Top of Foot near Ankle

Yet another area of pain on the top of foot is just below the ankle joint on the outside part of the top of the foot. In this particular area of the foot there is a very small fleshy area. This fleshy area is a small muscle known as the Extensor Digatorum Brevis.

Below the muscle there is a small canal between two bones. This area is known as the Sinus Tarsi. In this area there are three small ligaments that may become inflamed. A common cause of the pain is because of flattening of the foot that pinches these small ligaments. Sometimes there is actual jamming of two bones leading to the pain.

Pain on Top of Foot after Running

The arches in the feet are meant to absorb the shock of running, walking, and even standing. When the arches fall and you suffer with flat feet, then the tarsal bones may become compressed, which causes damaged joints, bone spurs, as well as irritation.  The top of the foot may be slightly swollen, have red spots, and pain on top of foot will increase with activity. Improper footwear is one of the main causes of the condition.

How to Get Rid of Pain on Top of Foot

If you are experiencing pain on top of foot, you should take it much seriously and even contact a podiatrist or the primary doctor. The doctor will perform a physical and visual exam using weight-bearing and non-weight bearing movements.

He or she will also ask you about the activities leading up to the pain, and also the medical history. Muscles, tendons, bones, and ligaments will also be observed with x-rays and bone scans to rule out specific conditions or injuries.

The doctor may also want to take a look at the shoes to ensure that they fit well and to note the abnormal wear patterns.

There are many things that you can do to treat the pain on top of foot. Seeing a podiatrist or foot specialist should be the first step.

Treatment for the pain on top of foot will be based on the cause and the severity of the pain. Foot doctors normally apply the RICE method so as to relieve foot pain. RICE stands for: Rest, Ice (applied for about 20 minutes at a time), Compression, and Elevation.

These are the four basic elements that are used to treat any kind of injury to the foot. Other treatment options can include:

  • Over-the-counter medication (Tylenol, aspirin and naproxen) so as to reduce pain and discomfort.
  • Shoe inserts or other types of orthotics
  • Medications that are prescribed for more severe symptoms
  • Stretching the foot muscles
  • Switching the foot wear
  • Strappings or paddings
  • Limiting the activities
  • Surgery (for very severe cases)

Crutches can be required to allow the foot to rest during the healing process. If a fracture is present, recovery may take about four to six weeks.

If the pain is brought about by improper footwear, then the problem can be solved as soon as new, proper-fitting footwear is purchased. The doctor will create an appropriate treatment plan that is based on the underlying cause of the pain. This can include the options that are listed above.

Further references;

  1. Pain in the Top of the Foot: http://www.ahni.com/Specialties/Foot+and+Ankle/Articles/Common+Disorders/Pain+in+the+Top+of+the+Foot.html
  2. Why does the top of my foot hurt?: https://eastpennfoot.wordpress.com/2012/06/27/why-does-the-top-of-my-foot-hurt/
  3. Foot Problems: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/health-tools/search-by-symptom/foot-problems.html
  4. Foot Pain Identifier: http://www.footeducation.com/foot-pain-identifier/
  5. Foot pain: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/foot-pain/pages/introduction.aspx

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