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Family Foot Care & Surgery, LLC

Extensor Tendonitis: Explaining Top of the Foot Pain

Gravity only works one way. To lift something up, you have to have a force actively acting against it. Machines have cables with motors. Feet have muscles and tendons. The structures that straighten or lift your toes and flex your feet are called your extensor tendons. As many active people are aware, however, those connective tissues are not injury proof. Top of the foot pain can stop many athletes in their tracks if not properly cared for. Fortunately, this condition—extensor tendonitis—is easy to treat.

Burning Top of the Foot Pain

Extensor tendonitis, also called extensor tendinopathy, is a painful overuse injury that makes it difficult for you to lift or flex your foot. Many runners are unfortunately familiar with this condition. The tendons that pull your toes and whole foot up and backwards end up inflamed and irritated. As a result, the top of your foot aches and burns whenever you try to flex your toes or lift your foot when you run. Sometimes the top of the foot swells as well. Usually the discomfort develops slowly and gets worse the longer you have it.

Irritating the Flexors

Generally you develop this injury when the tendons on the top of your foot are overworked or overstressed. Sometimes this means you are pushing your feet harder in your running or other sports than they are conditioned to handle. A sudden change in training, like running more hills or switching to a treadmill, can aggravate these tendons. Lacing your shoes incorrectly or wearing poorly-fitted footwear can lead to the problem as well. Shoes that are laced too tight or don’t fit can pinch the tendons and nerves on the top of the foot, leading to irritation and swelling in the connective tissues.

Easing the Pain, Correcting the Problem

This is a type of overuse injury, so it doesn’t get better without treatment. Dr. Sanjay Patel will carefully examine your lower limbs and your biomechanics to identify the problem. Out staff may need a few tests to rule out other potential causes of your discomfort, but once we’ve identified extensor tendonitis as the culprit, we can help you begin treating it.

The good news is that this condition doesn’t have to be serious and usually only needs conservative care. The most important step is to rest—as much as runners and other athletes dislike hearing that. Put your training on hold until the pain has disappeared. Running or playing sports on the injury risks turning your top of the foot pain into a chronic problem and causing the tendons to degenerate.

Ice your foot to decrease swelling and irritation there. Stretch and strengthen both your extensor muscles and your calves, since they need each other to function well and avoid injuries. Most importantly, check to make sure your shoes fit correctly. If they do, consider finding a new way to lace your sports shoes so they don’t put too much pressure on the top of your foot.

Top of the foot pain from extensor tendonitis shouldn’t have to sideline you for long. A little treatment and a few footwear changes should get you back to doing what you love. Our team at Family Foot Care & Surgery, L.L.C. is happy to help you get back to living without painful feet. Contact our two Connecticut offices for an appointment through our website. You can also call us: (203) 288-4055 for our Hamden office, or (203) 876-7736 for our Milford location.

Dr. Sanjay V. Patel
Dr. Patel has over 20 years of experience in the field of podiatric medicine and podiatric surgery.