Author: Chloe Wilson - BSc(Hons) Physiotherapy
Pain on top of the foot is a common problem. Every step we take places a force 1.5x body weight through our feet.
Most cases of pain on top of the foot are due to either an injury, overuse, wear and tear or even ill-fitting footwear.
Pain in the top of the foot may be caused by damage to the:
Bones: e.g. stress fractures, Sinus Tarsi Syndrome, Hammer, Mallet or Claw Toe & Tarsal Coalition
Soft Tissues: e.g. extensor Tendonitis or Tibialis Anterior Tendonitis
Skin: e.g.athlete's Foot
Medical Conditions: e.g. gout, ganglions or nerve damage
Small break in one of the foot bones e.g. metatarsal fracture
Symptoms: Severe pain, swelling and tenderness over the fracture
Cause: Repetitive overloading e.g. kicking, running, jumping, increased training
Full Article: Foot Stress Fractures
Inflammation of the small, bony channel between the heel & ankle
Symptoms: ankle stiffness, instability, pain when walking/standing on top and side of foot
Cause: Ankle sprain, prolonged instability, altered foot biomechanics
Full Article: Sinus Tarsi Syndrome
Toe deformities which alter the positions of the small bones
Symptoms: Stiffness, pain and abnormal curling of one or more toe
Causes: Tight, pointed shoes, toe injury, problems in nerves or blood vessels, arthritis
Full Article: Hammer, Mallet, Claw Toes
Bony bridge connecting two or more of the foot bones. Affects approx. 1% of the population
Symptoms: Stiffness, instability and foot pain, typically in early adolescence.
Causes: Congenital condition (present since birth), often hereditary
Inflammation of the tendons on the top of the foot that lift the toes
Symptoms: Gradual increase in pain, swelling & tenderness over top of foot. Discomfort when wearing shoes
Cause: Tight shoes, flat feet, prolonged standing/walking, muscle tightness, off-road running
Full Article: Extensor Tendonitis
Inflammation of the tendon at the front of the ankle that lifts up the foot
Symptoms: Gradual increase in pain at front of ankle and top of foot, worse after rest
Cause: Overuse e.g. running, esp. off-road or downhill, muscle weakness & tightness
Full Article: Foot Tendonitis
A type of inflammatory arthritis that causes crystals formation in joints e.g. big toe, due to high uric acid levels
Symptoms: Sudden onset of intense pain (typically at night), redness, swelling, heat
Causes: purine-rich diet, hereditary, obesity and often linked with diabetes
Full Article: Gout Foot
Small lump filled with jelly-like fluid, found near foot joints & tendons
Symptoms: Small, pea-like nodule. Causes pain if presses on nearby structure e.g. nerve
Cause: Foot injury, aging, often unknown origin
Fungal infection of the skin, tinea pedis. Affects approx 15% population
Symptoms: Scaly, itchy, flaking skin, swelling and blistering
Cause: Poor foot hygiene, excess moisture, humid conditions, contagious
Full Article: Foot Rashes
Pinching or compression of nerve in the foot, leg or lower back
Symptoms: burning or shooting pain, pins and needles, numbness, foot weakness
Cause: Swelling, injury, spinal deformity, disc bulge
Full Article: Nerve Pain In Foot
You can find out loads more about each of these conditions, including the best treatment options for each one, by using the links above.
Much of the time, pain on top of the foot will settle down, using simple home treatments, within a week. If the pain persists for longer, or is severe, you should see your doctor.
The doctor will ask you:
Then, they will examine your foot for any signs of swelling or deformity. The will look at you walking and then look at the movement and strength in and around your foot.
If the doctor suspects a bony injury, you will be sent for an x-ray. They may also order blood tests or an MRI.
Pain on top of the foot is often accompanied by other symptoms which can help you to work out what is wrong:
Treatment for pain on top of the foot will depend on what the underlying cause is. If it is a minor problem with minimal pain and swelling, you can usually treat yourself at home with a combination of:
If the pain is more severe, is getting worse, there is significant swelling or you are unable to bear weight, you should see you doctor. They may then advise:
You can find out loads more about how to reduce pain on top of the foot in the foot pain treatment section.
Here, we have looked at the ten most common causes of pain on top of foot. And new incidence of pain should always be assessed by your doctor to ensure an accurate diagnosis.
To find out more about these common causes of pain on top of foot, choose the appropriate link above. Or, if you want some help working out what is causing your pain, visit the foot pain diagnosis section.
Page Last Updated: 14/01/19
Next Review Due: 14/01/21