Written By: Chloe Wilson BSc(Hons) Physiotherapy
Reviewed By: FPE Medical Review Board
Foot and ankle tendonitis is a common cause of foot pain.
Tendonitis occurs when there is inflammation or irritation of the tendons, which is usually due to overuse from repetitive movements or stretching, or an injury such as an ankle sprain.
Symptoms of foot tendonitis typically consist of pain, swelling and stiffness. It usually takes two to three months to recover from ankle tendonitis, but it can take much longer without the proper treatment so early diagnosis and treatment is essential.
Foot and ankle tendonitis can affect any of the tendons in the foot.
Here we will look at how tendons get damaged and what the effects of that damage is. We will then go on to look at the most common types of foot and ankle tendonitis including the symptoms and treatment options for each.
Tendons are the strong, cord-like bands of connective tissue that link muscles to bone. There are lots of different tendons around the foot that work hard whenever we are on our feet.
If a tendon is made to work too hard, for too long or in the wrong way, damage and tiny tears develop in the tendon. This is accompanied by inflammation which is the tell-tale sign of the condition.
The body’s normal response to an injury is to send extra red blood cells carrying the oxygen and nutrients required for healing and white cells to fight off possible infection. Waste products such as inflammatory chemicals are then carried away.
All of this helps speed up healing but should only last for a few days. If an area is repeatedly irritated, the process keeps going resulting in the continued inflammation described as tendonitis.
There are four main causes of foot and ankle tendonitis:
The symptoms of foot and ankle tendonitis will vary according to the location, severity and stage of the tendonitis. The most common symptoms of foot and ankle tendonitis are:
Tendonitis can occur in a number of places around the foot and each will present with different symptoms.
Achilles tendonitis causes heel and calf pain and is probably the most well known type of foot tendonitis.
The Achilles tendon joins the two calf muscles to the heel. Pain is usually felt when walking/running and can occur anywhere from the back of the heel up to the middle of the calf.
Find out more about the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options in the achilles tendonitis section.
Peroneal tendonitis causes pain on the back and outer side of your ankle/foot. The peroneal tendons run down the outer side of the ankle across the bottom of the foot.
Pain from peroneal tendonitis is usually felt when standing or pushing off through your foot.
You can find out loads more about the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options in the peroneal tendonitis article.
Posterior tibial tendonitis causes pain on the inner side of the foot. The posterior tibial tendon runs along the inside of the foot and ankle.
Pain is usually felt when you start to push off through your foot. Over time, the foot arch will gradually collapse resulting in flat feet. The classic sign of posterior tibial tendonitis is an inability to stand on tiptoes.
You can find out loads more about the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options in the posterior tibial tendonitis section.
Extensor tendonitis causes pain on the top of the foot. The extensor tendons job is to pull the toes up.
Pain from extensor tendonitis is often worse when running. This is one of the more rare types of ankle tendonitis.
You can find out loads more about the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options in the extensor tendonitis section.
Anterior tibial tendonitis results in pain at the front of your foot. The Anterior Tibial Tendon controls the movement at the front of your foot.
Pain from anterior tibial tendonitis is usually felt when coming down stairs or when walking/running on sloped surfaces e.g. hills. Again, this is one of the less common places to get ankle tendonitis.
You can find out loads more about the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options in the tibialis anterior tendonitis section.
Treatment for foot and ankle tendonitis typically consists of:
Specific treatment for foot and ankle tendonitis depends on which tendon is affected. You can find out loads more about the best treatment options for the different types of foot and ankle tendonitis:
In most cases, foot tendonitis will go away at some point. Recovery from any type of foot and ankle tendonitis tends to be slow and can take anything from weeks to months. The earlier treatment is started, the better the likely outcome.
For more in-depth information and specific treatment advice for each type of tendonitis, visit the appropriate section choosing from Achilles Tendonitis, Peroneal Tendonitis, Posterior Tibial Tendonitis, Extensor Tendonitis or Tibialis Anterior Tendonitis.
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Page Last Updated: 05/04/23
Next Review Due: 05/04/25
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