You may have a localized pain somewhere on the top of your foot. It could be close to the toes, toward the inside of your arch or right in the middle. It acts up while you run, walk or even stand for prolonged periods of time. Other symptoms may include bruising, swelling, inflammation and tenderness. It might not be enough to limp, but the pain you feel when running, walking or even just standing is constant enough that you can’t just “walk it off.” The pain is bearable yet impossible to forget but it may have you thinking: Is this serious?
The first thing to do is RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation), applied within the first 24 hours from the initial onset of pain. Rest may be required for longer—if you’re a runner, take a few days, weeks or even a month off to heal.
If RICE doesn’t help or the pain comes back, consider visiting a physiotherapist for an assessment.
Possible causes and symptoms
Each of your feet has 26 bones, 33 joints and more than 100 muscles, ligaments and nerves that hold it all together. As a result, there are many potential causes, depending on the exact location and severity of the pain. Sometimes it helps to know the most likely possibilities.
Spending too long on your feet, calf tightness, uneven surfaces, and even shoes or socks that are too tight can cause extensor tendonitis. It’s not a serious injury, but it can be quite painful. The tendons on the top of the foot become irritated and inflamed, creating a pressure point that can form a bump or nodule, with swelling, bruising and pain.
Make sure you have shoes that fit with laces that aren’t too tight. Proper stretching and ultrasound treatment from a physiotherapist are also recommended.
Improper footwear, injury, and age can all cause a bone spur—a boney projection along a normal bone. You might be thinking pointy, but they can be smooth as well. You’ll notice a bone spur when it rubs against other bones or soft tissue (tendons, ligaments or nerves), which leads to pain, swelling and sometimes numbness.
To treat the pain, change your footwear or try an orthotic/foot insert to cushion the top of the foot.
A stress fracture is a small break in one of the foot bones, most commonly a metatarsal (the five long bones). Repetitive movements (running, jumping, etc.), muscle weakness and tightness or suddenly increasing your physical activities can all cause stress fractures. You’ll feel severe pain on the top of your foot, along with swelling and tenderness.
Crutches may be required during RICE, to ensure you keep pressure off the foot. An ankle or foot brace is often recommended as well.
Top of foot pain can be easily treated by a qualified physiotherapist, book an assessment today!