Pain on Top of The Foot After Running – How to Identify and Treat Foot Extensor Tendonitis

You feel pain across the top of your foot with some swelling after running?

The pain gets worse when you run, walk, and even touching the affected area causes sharp pain, and it's better with rest?

So:

Top foot pain is all but a problem that you should overlook.

Today, you're going to learn the causes of this injury, how you can prevent it, and the treatments you can use when things are past this point.

If you'd love to get back to running as soon as possible, you will love this article.

Let's get started!

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1. What are We Exactly Dealing With?

The specific injury we are going to talk about in this article is called foot extensor tendonitis.

It is the inflammation of foot tendons – a condition that tends to cause severe pain and can even prevent you from running as time goes by.

Top foot pain aka Foot Extensor Tendonitis

The problem with foot extensor tendonitis is that the discomfort caused by this specific condition can be easily confused with some other similar running-caused traumas like physical injuries and pain caused by overly tight shoelaces.

Both these latter mentions are not that severe and can be rooted out with a bit of ice and a couple of days of resting.

Foot extensor tendonitis, on the other hand, is something completely different.

So:

Let's first examine a couple of symptoms that are pointing out to developing tendonitis.

2. The First Symptoms

Swelling, redness, and warmth near the injury area

These symptoms can also occur as a result of a physical injury but, if they continue to manifest on a daily basis, you should definitely consult your physician.

Increased tenderness

If you are developing foot extensor tendonitis, the affected area should become increasingly tender. So much so that even the slight touch can cause sharp pain.

Bruising

Although not one of the most common symptoms, in some cases, developing foot extensor tendonitis can manifest in the form of noticeable bruises above the injured area.

Crepitus

If you are unfamiliar with this medical term, crepitus refers to the grating sensation or sound produced by friction between cartilage and the bone (or parts of the bone).

If you notice this symptom, take that as a serious sign that you are not dealing with the ordinary physical trauma.

Retracting and recurring symptoms 

Most of the physical injuries take a couple of days to wear off.

If you notice the signs appearing again as soon as you engage in physical activity, you should make an appointment with your physicians.

3. A Simple Test to Identify Foot Extensor Tendonitis

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You can try this simple test to tell if you have foot extensor tendonitis.

  • Sit on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you; 
  • Then try pulling your toes towards you; it would be a good idea that someone presses your toes to resist the movement.
  • If you feel pain along the course of a tendon connecting your toes and the front of your ankle, you likely have the condition.

4. Causes for Pain on Top of Foot After Running

In the previous section, I have established that foot extensor tendonitis represents the inflammation of foot tendons.

Now:

Let's see what its causes are. In this way, you can remove the causes for discomfort, which will most certainly speed up the recovery.

Friction/Tight shoes

Temporary irritation with tight shoes or laces can cause mild pain in the top area of your feet.

However, if this kind of friction continues on a daily basis, your occasional ache can develop in a full-scale injury.

Extensive physical activity

By activity, I may refer to something as simple as standing for extended periods of time.

However, the chances of developing the condition can be drastically increased if you:

  • Walk on uneven surfaces;
  • Frequently run downhill;
  • Use worn-out shoes;
  • Face problems with weight control.

Abnormal foot arches

This primarily refers to people with high foot arches since they are more likely to produce pressure on the top of the feet.

However, persons with flat feet have their tendons under more stress, so they are not out of danger either.

Calf tightness

This case is similar to flat feet – if you have developed this condition, your body will try to compensate for the lack of mobility by putting more pressure on the extensor muscles when you are running.

This problem becomes even more severe if you are a recreational runner and cover distances of five miles or more and more a day.

5. How You Can Avoid/Alleviate Extensor Tendonitis

Based on all the things I have just covered, these are a couple of preventive measures you can use to keep tendonitis on hold or alleviate its symptoms if you have already gone too far down the road.

  • Wearing shoes that provide strong support to the feet and ankles;
  • Wearing terrain-appropriate and comfortable footwear;
  • Spending a couple of minutes stretching before running;
  • Taking occasional breaks while performing a repetitive or exhausting activity;
  • Strengthening up the leg muscles (primarily calf muscles);
  • Loosening up the laces.

The video below teaches you a shoe lacing technique to reduce pressure on the top of your foot.

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6. How To Treat Foot Extensor Tendonitis?

IMPORTANT

I urge you to visit your physician before applying any of these treatments. 

There is a high chance that your condition was not adequately diagnosed or that symptoms do not reflect the current stage of the trauma.

These common mistakes, as well as the chances of dislocation or developing arthritis, can be quickly ruled out after an X-ray, MRI, or CT scan.

When you finish the examination at the medical facility, you will, most likely, be advised to start applying one of the following treatments (depending on the severity of the problem).

Resting

Foot extensor tendons are going under a lot of stress even when you are performing mundane activities like standing or walking.

So, the first step in treating tendonitis should be giving these sensitive anatomical structures a proper time to rest and recuperate.

Ice treatments

This method is especially efficient if you are experiencing stinging pain and excessive swelling.

However, the main goal of ice treatment, in this case, is reducing the inflammation.

Therefore, be sure to keep the ice packs pressed to the affected area for at least 15 minutes in a row.

The treatments should be applied every four hours.

Compression

Compression is performed by wrapping up the elastic bandage around the hurt foot.

Fortunately, these items are very inexpensive and can be found in any sports equipment store.

Elevation

This method is not exactly aimed at relieving inflammation as much as reducing swelling.

All you need to do is to raise your feet above the heart level.

For instance, if you are sitting, your feet can be simply elevated on a chair or a stool. When you are lying, you can achieve the same effect with nothing but an ordinary cushion.

Leg exercises

I have already mentioned this method as a preventive measure, but since foot extensor tendons are constantly in use strengthening calf muscles can drastically speed up the recovery.

Here are a couple of simple calf-strengthening exercises and foot extensor stretches to get you going:

Double-leg calf raise

Single-leg calf raise

Seated calf raise

Swimming 

If you want to stay active, swimming, or running in the pool help strengthen your calves, and take the pressure away from your feet caused by running.

Food extensor stretch #1: Toe raises

Food extensor stretch #2: Towel toe curls

Medication

Using medication during the recovery doesn't have to mean you are dealing with something dangerous.

In most cases, your physician will prescribe non-steroidal drugs like naproxen and ibuprofen that are used to reduce inflammation.

However, in some of the more severe cases, the same effect can be achieved only with the help of steroid injections.

Physiotherapy

Physiotherapy is used only when all other methods I have listed above don’t produce desired results.

However, you don’t have to be afraid since this type of treatment uses only non-invasive and non-strenuous techniques like:

  • Reducing pain with thermal and electrical modalities;
  • Stretching out calf muscles;
  • Working out neglected leg muscles;
  • Retraining walking and running patterns;
  • Reducing swelling with ice and proper positioning.

Conclusion

As we can see, the pain that appears on the top of the foot after running is a problem that is very easy to address, at least in terms of physical therapies.

If identified timely, your recovery can be over in no more than 3-4 four days. 

More severe traumas, on the other hand, may require up to six weeks of therapy.

Still, the good news is that neither of these cases requires surgical procedure or some different invasive medical technique.

However, the only real way to forever fend off foot extensor tendonitis lies in prevention.

If you don't correct your posture, improve your running patterns, listen to your body, and find a way to strengthen your leg muscles, foot tendons will continue to sustain heavy pressure, and you will have to deal with this condition sooner than later.

Keep this in mind before going on the next long-distance run.

P.S: Let me know if you have any questions by using the chatbox.

Matt C.
 

Hi, I’m Matt, the man behind Empower Your Run. There's nothing quite like crossing your first finish line, and I hope one day you'll get the chance to experience that for yourself. Remember – “if you can walk, you can run” – and I'll be here guiding you every step of the way!