Top of Foot Troubles: Extensor Tendonitis

Posted by on Friday, June 8th, 2012

So your ankle is fine. Your toes are fine. Your heel is fine. Everything in your foot is fine, right? Well, except for that problem on the top of your foot…

Top of your foot?! Could it be extensor tendonitis?!!!


Extensor tendonitis? Yes, also known as extensor tendinopathy.

Great, an injury with two names. Now what is it? The extensor tendons run down the front of your leg and down to your toes. They help you point your toes and foot upwards (a different set of muscles point them downwards). When those tendons become inflamed, you have extensor tendonitis.

How would I know I have extensor tendinitis? If you have pain across the top of your foot, some swelling on the top of your foot, and pain on the top of your foot that gets worse when you’re running, then you may have extensor tendonitis. To get an accurate diagnosis, though, you should contact a podiatrist at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine (212.996.1900). This is especially important because these could also be symptoms of a stress fracture, and of course you would want to find out about that.

How could I–or anyone else, of course–get it? There are a number of possible causes. It’s generally an overuse injury for runners, but it also can be exacerbated by where you’re running; if you run on icy slippery surfaces or very hilly terrain, you’ll increase your chances of developing extensor tendonitis (uh oh, I’ve been running a lot on hills lately…).

Lacing your shoes too tight or wearing shoes that are too tight can also cause it. Transitioning to barefoot running too quickly can also be the culprit.

What do I do about it? Well, as always, start with resting, meaning stay away from running. Relax, put your feet up (though don’t flex them up), discover some new apps, catch up on movies, search for workouts that don’t involve bending your feet. You can also ice your foot and take anti-inflammatories to help with the pain and swelling. Make sure your shoes fit and loosen your laces; you can also put some padding under the tongue of your shoe if the laces are causing the pain. Tight calf muscles can contribute to extensor tendonitis, so work on stretching your calf muscles (see some exercises here). Sports massage can help loosen them up as well.

If you have flat feet, that may be part of the problem; in that case, podiatrists at at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine (212.996.1900) can prescribe orthotics to help. Livestrong has some exercises for your feet that may be able to help prevent extensor tendonitis.

So yes, just when you think you’re all clear because the bottom of your foot is okay, the top comes to get you. But this is an injury you can deal with, so get through it and get back out running again! If you think you may have extensor tendonitis, or any other foot issue, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Dr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, and Dr. Ryan Minara have helped thousands of people get back on their feet.

If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine LaiDr. Nadia Levy, and Dr. Ryan Minara have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.

8 Responses to “Top of Foot Troubles: Extensor Tendonitis”

  1. Kristi Davis says:

    I was diagnosed with this last weekend by an urgent care doctor. X-ray showed no signs of a break. It’s more uncomfortable than painful so I’m just taking 800mg Ibuprofren. The foot feels best when I have it wrapped with flexible tape. What’s the most frustrating is I am walking with a limp. How long can I expect this to last?

  2. Josh Amos says:

    Hello,from reading all sorts of info I think that I have extensor tendonitis. How long does this typically last for? Mine has been bothering me for 1 month now. I’ve been taking anti-inflammatories, doing some stretches, hot soaks,and icing.. and NO running. Basically just walking at work, then taking it easy. Please help!

  3. kyle romero says:

    Hi my name is Kyle Romero i am in the Air Force and i have had ankle pain at the top of my foot. I read this artice and all these explanations fit Extensor Tendonitis. So i think i have this. I have been going to military doctors and problem still exists. I have flat feet so i was given shoes with arrch support. I will work on the streaching my calf muscles to try and help. but if i could get more help i would be grateful. I don’t want to get kicked out for this problem i have had for over a year.

  4. Paula Moscariello says:

    At last I know what I have, I have tight calves and got new socks which made the toe box to small I later found out. I’ve been in pain since. I have a lot of pain on the top of my feet and stretching makes it worse and yes massage makes it better. Is your office near Massachusetts? If not could you point me in the direction of a orthotic. I’ve bought every one on themarket. When I see a foot doctor what should I ask for?..Thank you

  5. amy says:

    I recently experienced pain on the top of my left foot near wher the bones and veins et in…I can’t walk too well at work, and I have no idea how this happened…. I used to be a runner years ago and am familiar with shine splints, barefoot hard running etc, …but this pain came out of nowhere, I didn’t know how to massage the right area because the top of the foot is a tricky spot to figure out i thought…but calve Muscles make sense…I’ve been taking ice andheat for 3 days now… About when can I expect a recovery possibly? As I cannot take time off my job to see a massage therapist

  6. lynne says:

    I was doing some exercises for my knee and then wore very tight sandals for 2 days. I have pain in closed shoes and walk with a limp. It hurts on top of my foot and baby toe.Also, the pain reaches up to shin.Ice always help my knee, but it seems to make this worse. I am taking NSAIDS–would a cortisone injection be helpful? This has been going on for about a week.I am a chef and can hardly stand up.

  7. Steve says:

    Hi. I developed this seven weeks and two days ago, but who’s counting? :) Seriously, it’s a very frustrating injury because it’s in a weight-bearing spot. I’m still far from back to normal (Boston Marathoner here), but I have gotten two honest-to-goodness runs in in the last week of 2 and 2.5 miles. So it does seem to clear up. It just takes awhile. Hoping for another 2.5 tomorrow; wish me luck!

Leave a Reply

WP-SpamFree by Pole Position Marketing