Top 10 Causes For Top Of Foot Pain

Pain on the top of the foot can be frustrating.

If it’s bad enough, it can prevent you from doing day-to-day activities like exercising or simply walking.

If you’re experiencing this type of pain, there are quite a few reasons that can cause it.

Below we’ve listed the top 10 causes for top of foot pain.

Take a look and see if any of these could possibly apply to you.

If necessary, speak to a podiatrist about further treatment.

The type of pain and the area in which it presents itself will help the doctor properly diagnose your condition.

Stress Fractures

The most common cause of pain on top of the foot is a stress fracture. Stress fractures are often caused by overuse of the foot, especially during high-impact activities, such as running or repetitive exercise. The telltale signs of a stress fracture are pain and swelling that gradually increase over time.

Bone Spurs

A bone spur is a growth of bone that that is more pronounced than the normal bone anatomy. Bone spurs can occur on any bone in the body, but typically occur around joints.

They are caused by repetitive rubbing and pressure over a bone over a prolonged period of time and can also results from osteoarthritis. Your podiatrist will be able to diagnose this problem by a physical exam and x-ray.


A hammertoe is caused by a muscle imbalance that leads to contracture and prominence of the small joints in the toes. These contracted toes become irritated by shoes, particularly poor-fitting shoes.

The deformity can be hereditary and may be passed from generation to generation. A podiatrist will recommend toes pads, orthotics, and deep shoes as a conservative option and in more advanced cases surgery will likely be recommended.

Athlete’s Foot

Although more common between the toes and on the bottom of the foot, Athlete’s Foot is a common problem that may cause pain on top of the foot. It results from a fungal infection and on top of the foot generally presents as itching, scaling and flaking of the skin.

In some cases the condition may present with painful blisters. Athlete’s Foot can be acquired by walking barefoot in public places. It can also be caused by excessively sweaty socks that are not changed on a regular basis.

If left untreated for long periods of time, secondary bacterial infections can set in and may lead to serious limb threatening conditions. It’s best to see a podiatrist if over-the-counter treatments aren’t successful.

Ganglion Cyst

A ganglion cyst is a pea to golf ball sized benign mass that forms either over joints or tendons. These cyst result from irritation of a tendon sheath or joint and result in a fluid filled mass that can fluctuate in size over time. The cysts generally become problematic when they are impinged by shoes. A foot doctor can drain the cyst with a needle, however the mass can recur and sometimes your podiatrist will have to surgically remove the mass.


Any joint in the foot or ankle is subject to degenerative changes over time. The joints across the midfoot and the big toe joint are the most common joints in the foot to develop arthritis.

This condition occurs from high impact activity as well as aging and leads to a breakdown of the cartilage surfaces. This leads to bone on bone contact and pain. Your podiatrist will diagnose this condition with x-rays and a thorough physical exam.

Extensor Tendinitis

Tendinitis is a condition that occurs when tendons develop fluid around them leading to pain and swelling. When the extensor tendons on the top of the foot develop tendinitis, the pain can be felt by moving the toes or the ankle.

Extensor tendonitis is often brought on by foot or ankle injuries or by wearing shoes that are too tight. Your podiatrist will evaluate and treat tendinitis with a comprehensive treatment plan.

Nerve Entrapment

Nerve entrapment occurs when the nerves providing sensation to the foot become irritated or trapped by either tissue or bone. In some cases, the nerves on top of the foot can become crushed or pinched from an injury to the foot.

The pain is often shooting or burning. You may also experience a sensation like pins and needles or even numbness. Nerve injuries generally take a long time to improve and in some case can lead to permanent changes in sensation.


Gout is a form of inflammatory arthritis caused by high amounts of uric acid in the blood. These acids precipitate in the joint and crystallize and lead to severe pain in the involved joints.

Although all joints in the foot and ankle can be affected by gout, it most commonly occurs in the big toe joint. Gout is managed with medications, injections, diet modifications, and in some cases surgery. Failure to treat gout can lead to severe disability.

Tarsal Coalition

Tarsal coalition is a condition in which 2 or more bones in the middle or the back of the foot are fused together. This congenital condition often begins affecting a person between the ages of 10 to 15.

The coalition leads to a painful flat foot. A podiatrist will generally begin treating the condition with custom orthotics, yet in more severe cases your podiatrist may need to perform surgery to correct the condition.

Top Of Foot Pain Consultation

If you are experiencing top of foot pain and would like to have it checked out, give us a call at 410-560-2777 or fill out the form on the top right of this page.

Discovering the condition that is causing your top of foot pain will let you know what your treatment options are and the quickest path to recovery and pain free walking.

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