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Why do I have pain on the top of my foot?

Our feet are made up of not only bones and muscles, but also ligaments and tendons. These body parts carry our entire body weight all day, so it’s not surprising that foot pain is relatively common.

Sometimes we will feel pain on the top of the foot, which can be uncomfortable when walking and even when standing. This pain’s cause can be detected by performing an MRI for feet. The pain can be moderate or severe, depending on the cause and severity of any potential injury.

What causes pain on the top of the foot?

Pain on the top of the foot can be caused by a number of different conditions, the most common being due to overuse in activities such as running, jumping, or kicking.

Conditions caused by overuse include:

  • extensor tendinitis. This is caused by overuse or tight shoes. The tendons located along the top of the foot, which allow the foot to move up, become inflamed and cause pain.
  • Sinus tarsi syndrome. This rare syndrome is characterized by inflammation of the sinus tarsi, the canal between the heel and the ankle bone. This condition causes pain on the top of the foot and on the outside of the ankle.
  • Stress fractures of the bones in the feet. Fractures in the metatarsal bones, which are located on the top of the foot, can cause pain in particular. Swelling can be a symptom of this injury.

Other causes of pain on the top of the foot include:

  • gout, which can cause sudden, severe pain in the joint at the base of the big toe
  • bone spurs, which are painful bumps that form along your joints, in the joints of your feet, near your toes
  • peripheral neuropathy, which causes pain, throbbing, or numbness that can spread from the feet to the legs
  • common peroneal nerve dysfunction, which is dysfunction of a branch of the sciatic nerve that can cause tingling and pain in the top of the foot, along with foot or leg weakness

How is pain diagnosed?

If you have persistent foot pain that lasts more than 1 week despite trying to treat it at home, you should make an appointment with your doctor. You should also call your doctor if your pain is so severe that it prevents you from walking, or if you have a burning, numbness, or tingling sensation in the affected foot. You can call your general practitioner, who can refer you to a podiatrist.

When you make an appointment with your doctor, he or she will ask about any other symptoms and how you might have injured your foot. He might ask about your physical activity and any previous injuries to your foot or ankle.

Next, the doctor will examine your foot. He might press on different areas of your foot to determine where you feel pain. You might also be asked to walk around and do exercises like turning your foot to test your range of motion.

To check for extensor tendonitis, your doctor will ask you to flex your foot downward. It will then pull your fingers up as you try to resist. If you feel pain, it may be caused by extensor tendonitis.

If your doctor suspects a broken bone, fracture, or bone spurs, he or she will order X-rays of your foot.

Other tests your doctor might do include:

  • blood tests, which can identify conditions such as gout
  • magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to look at the damage to the peroneal nerve

How is the pain treated?

Since our feet support our entire body weight, a minor injury could become more extensive if left untreated. It is important that you seek immediate treatment if you suspect an injury.

Treatment depends on the underlying cause of the condition and may include:

  • physical therapy, which can help treat conditions such as peripheral neuropathy, extensor tendonitis, and peroneal nerve damage
  • a cast or boot for injuries such as broken bones or fractures
  • NSAIDs or other anti-inflammatory medications that can help reduce inflammation, including gout inflammation
  • home treatment

Home treatment can help foot pain in many cases. You should rest and not use the affected foot as much as possible. You can apply ice to the affected area for 20 minutes at a time, but no more.

When you do have to walk, wear well-fitting, supportive shoes that aren’t too tight.


Most causes of top foot pain are highly treatable, but they need to be treated before the pain and injury get worse.

If you have pain on the top of your foot, try to let your footrest as much as possible for at least 5 days and apply ice to the affected area for no more than 20 minutes at a time.

If home treatments don’t seem to help after 5 days, make an appointment with your doctor.


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Hi, my name is Erica Jacquline and I've been involved blogging for a number of sites in recent years. This blog however, is mine. Initially I started this site as a hobby, but it has since started to make me some money and I am now pursuing this by creating content that is educational in all aspects of life. Enjoy!

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