What Causes Pain On Top Of Foot And How to Treat It ?

photo by: Caitlin Regan

Running is one of the best cardiovascular exercises and has an enormous contribution to your health. Studies have shown that running as little as six miles a week can help keep weight off, lower both cancer and stroke risk at the same time, and improve your blood sugar levels. Still, what happens when you get pain on top of foot as a result of too much running?

When your feet no longer function the way they should (for instance, you experience pain and feel very tired), you need to take care of your feet. However, be prepared to face some challenges and conditions that you may not have heard of.

People who find themselves in these situations often fail to recognize what is happening with their feet. Why doesn’t the pain go away? To get rid of the pain, some runners resort to certain rigid positions, braces, or some light exercises. However, it is very hard to treat your feet without a proper diagnosis.

More than 65 percent of people aged 65 or above suffer from some form of pain caused by injured toenails. The nails thicken and can get separated from the toe bed. The symptoms are slow to appear and, in some cases, it may take years before the patient realizes he or she has a health issue.

Symptoms to Look Out For

If you have pain on top of your foot, you may notice that there is swelling or even bruising in the affected area. Some people may even start to limp because of the acute pain. Depending on the cause of the separation, symptoms may include:

  • Pain that occurs without any trauma or injury
  • Pain that worsens with any physical activity
  • Swelling on the top of the foot
  • ​Bruising on the top of the foot
  • ​Pain that gets worse when tight shoes are worn
  • Limping due to pain
  • Tenderness on the top of the foot

Because the condition is not usually caused by particular traumas, it makes it much more difficult to notice. If you have any of the symptoms listed above, be sure to consult with a healthcare professional who has experience in treating the condition. Typically, the pain only worsens without proper treatment and care.

What Causes Top of Foot Pain?

  • The pain on the top of your foot that resulted from running is called extensor tendonitis or extensor tendinitis. This pain may feel as if the bone on the top of the foot has been fractured, but in reality, the tendons or tendon sheaths have become inflamed, according to the Ankle & Foot Center of San Francisco. It is probably better known among medical professionals as one of the most common causes of top of foot pain.
  • Our feet have 26 bones, 33 joints, and around 100 tendons, ligaments, and muscles. They all need to be in a healthy condition in order to support the body for a lifetime. Sources of stress such as ill-fitting shoes and high heels can cause pain, accidents, or complicate the treatment process and make the condition even worse.
  • ​Another thing that causes the foot to eventually lose its functionality is excess weight. A study has shown that people who have lost weight naturally or with the help of surgery have been able to regain strength in their feet as well as alleviate the pain significantly.
  • One common cause of foot pain is osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis usually happens in people who are at least 50 years of age. It is the most common chronic condition of the joints, affecting approximately 27 million Americans. With osteoarthritis, the joint’s cartilage wears down, causing stiffness and pain.
  • Heel pain syndrome is another common condition associated with foot pain. People with fat pads experience this type of pain all the time. As their fat pads lose elasticity due to excess weight or aging, the result is a dull ache and foot inflammation, which may be severe in chronic cases.
  • Some people develop bone overgrowth or a bone spur on top of the joint. In this case, seeing a doctor immediately is crucial. A doctor may suggest wearing a shoe that is long or deep enough to comfortably accommodate the toes, or surgery in severe cases.
  • Bunions are also associated with foot pain. This is when a bony bump is formed at the base of the joint, causing the big toe to be pushed against the rest of the toes. The result is swelling, thickness, and soreness in the foot.

    The most common cause of bunions are genes, but tight shoes and high heels can make the condition worse. People can get bunions at any age, although one has to be genetically predisposed to acquire them. Age also plays an important role here; people who are older are more prone to bunions. One study has also revealed that women in their 40s are 1.5 times more vulnerable to bunions, and those in their 50s are 3.5 times more vulnerable.

  • Medication may also be a reason for pain at the top of the foot.

Do You Need to Treat Pain on Top of Foot Soon?

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, there are a number of consequences that can be brought about by pain on top of foot. These are:

  • Inability to move without pain
  • Inability to perform physical activities such as running, cycling, and hiking
  • Inflammation spreading to other parts of the body
  • Unnecessary pressure on other parts of the body due to limping
  • If you do not treat the pain on the top of your foot, the tendons will remain inflamed. You may also notice that the pain forces you to move differently and puts stress on other parts of your body, which can lead to additional health problems.

Top of Foot Pain Treatments

  • In the process of treating mild foot pain, certain natural home remedies are helpful. Immersing the foot in essential oils and warm water can significantly reduce inflammation to a more tolerable level. Strong peppermint tea added to water or on top of the painful area can be used as a treatment. Other natural remedies that can be done at home include, but are not limited to, running, clove oil, arnica tincture, gentle massages, and ice packs.
  • Proper treatment is the only way to eliminate the symptoms and hence the severe condition itself. The best way to prevent the big toe from starting to drift inward is to keep it in the correct position with appropriate shoes or wraps. Sitting down with the feet placed side by side can also help.
  • ​Looping a thick elastic band around the toes followed by light foot exercise or running is another way to prevent bunions from developing. There are many flexible splints for this condition. Some of these devices have proven to be very effective in treating bunions. In case all these measures fail to solve the problem, a doctor will suggest outpatient bunion surgery. The recovery period, which may vary depending on the procedure, is usually one or two months.
  • If you have shoes that constrict the top of your foot, look for new shoes that have more space for the forefeet and enough room for your tendons to move. The key is to not compress the foot so that the tendons can move and do not become irritated and inflamed.
  • Wearing comfortable flats is the best way to avoid heel pain syndrome. Flats or heel pads that are available over the counter provide extra space and cushioning for your feet, effectively decreasing the pain.
  • Icing is also a good way reduce inflammation and discomfort. Freeze a plastic bottle of water and roll your heels on it.
  • If you spend more than 75 percent of your time on your feet, you need to take good care of them since they bear a lot of accumulated pressure. Proper treatment of your feet can drastically improve the quality of your life and help you stay healthy.
  • In most cases, surgery is not needed. The only time when surgery is recommended is when patients have ruptured tendons. Still, this is uncommon, even among cases of extensor tendonitis.
  • It is equally important to make sure that you do not push yourself too far or too fast. For people who run, it is best to gradually add miles each week. If you add too many miles too soon, you are setting yourself up for injury, not just to the tendons but to other parts of your body as well. The standard rule is to add no more than 10 percent more miles than the previous week.

If you have any questions about pain related to running activities or top of foot pain, please do not hesitate to contact us. We would love to help you find relief and keep the pain away so that you can live a happy, healthy, and active life.