Author: Chloe Wilson - BSc(Hons) Physiotherapy
Extensor tendonitis is a common problem that causes pain across the top of the foot.
This form of foot tendonitis is caused by inflammation or irritation of the tendons that pull the toes up.
Typically, tendonitis of the extensor tendons develops due to repeated friction across the top of the foot or excessive pressure from a poorly-fitting shoe.
Here, we will look at the common causes, symptoms and treatment options for this common foot problem.
Let's start by looking at how tendons work. Tendons are tough, fibrous tissues that connect muscles to bones. The extensor tendons join the muscles on the front of the lower leg to the toes. They pull the toes upwards away from the ground.
The two main toe extensor tendons are:
Extensor Hallucis Longus: which lifts up the big toe
Extensor Digitorum: which lifts the other four toes
Both tendons run down across the front of the ankle, across the top of the foot and then fan out attaching to the tips of the toes.
The tendons sit between the skin and the bones and there is little padding around them, making them prone to injury resulting in top of foot pain.
There are a number of things that increase the risk of developing extensor tendonitis:
The symptoms tend to be confined to the top of the foot, occasionally spreading to the arch of the foot:
A simple test for extensor tendonitis is to try and draw your toes up towards you while resisting the movement with your hand. If that recreates your pain on top of foot, you probably have the condition.
Treatment aims to reduce irritation, inflammation and pain in top of foot. There are a number of things that can help:
One of the best ways to treat extensor tendonitis is with a programme of stretching and strengthening exercises. Find out more about how to stretch and strengthen the calf muscles in the calf exercises section to help prevent and treat extensor tendonitis and other common causes of foot pain.
Extensor tendonitis is just one of the possible causes of pain on the top of the foot. If this isn't sounding quite like your problem, visit the Top Of Foot Pain section for help working out what else might be going on and how to treat it.
Page Last Updated: 6/12/18
Next Review Due: 6/12/20