Pain on Top of Foot: Treatment, Causes, Symptoms & More

We walk around several places, jump, dance, and do whatnot with our two amazing feet. While we are making several things possible, they are carrying our body’s heavyweight. Even the footballers who have played the sport for several years would soon find their feet weaker than before. It is because our feet consist of bones, muscles, and ligaments, which bear wear and tear for several years, and when the time comes, they will give up. That’s why it could cause pain on top of foot.

Athletes often suffer from this turmoil of foot pain, and their game indeed suffers. Also, it is not necessarily true that your feet have to get injured to suffer a condition like pain on top of the foot. There can be many health conditions that contribute to additional signs, and one of them could be affecting your mobility and feet. 

Since our feet are one complex site of tendons, muscles, ligaments, and veins, any specific malfunction in their inner mechanism could lead to the top of foot pain. However, it might be something more severe or a matter of concern when it hurts in a weird location like the top of the foot. Hence, in this article, we will rule out the possible reasons behind the development of sharp pain on top of the foot when walking and figure out the ways to treat and prevent it. 

The Probable Reasons for Pain on Top of Foot

pain on top of foot


It is crucial to understand that pain on top of the foot when walking might be weirder, significantly when you did not hurt your feet anyway. However, you might be neglecting several other symptoms along with it if there is a health condition prevailing in you. 

Our body works in mysterious ways since all of the parts are somehow connected. That’s why when you undergo pain on top of the foot, instead of being indifferent, go ahead and meet with an expert to understand the situation and the reason behind it. 

Here are some expert-found reasons that indicate the reason behind pain on top of the foot. These reasons range from injury or bone fracture to other health problems

Extensor Tendonitis

Extensor Tendons are tissue that connects the muscles to the bones, which help you lift your toes or, in other words, tip-toeing. When any of these Extensor Tendons are inflamed due to any injury, it would be difficult for you to lift your feet or flex them to the bones. Hence it would lead to burning pain on top of the foot.

Sometimes when you land your feet inwards, there are chances of witnessing Extensor Tendonitis. Belle Dancers who are constantly engaged in flexing their feet might suffer from this condition. They might accidentally land their feet high or inwards, hence causing inflammation of the Extensor Tendons. 

Apart from pain on top of the foot, there could be swelling right where you tie the shoelaces. If you continue doing any physical exercise that aggressively involves the feet, the problem could become worse. 

Fracturing Fifth Metatarsal

The fifth Metatarsal is a long bone that helps connect the little toe with the middle of the foot. So when this fifth Metatarsal bone gets fractured, it affects and causes pain on top of the foot. There are several cases of Fifth Metatarsal fracturing, such as Avulsion Fracture, which leads to a slight pull of the Metatarsal bone, and shifts from its location. It often is a consequence of witnessing an ankle sprain. 

Other Fifth Metatarsal fracturing could be accidentally twisting your feet, and the fracture takes place just near the Fifth Metatarsal. This feet injury condition is also known as Midshaft fracture, and as a result of this, there is a lot of foot pain on top of the foot. There are also chances that the doctor recommends surgical treatment if the displacement of bone is involved or there are multiple areas fractured around the Fifth Metatarsal. 

Ganglion Cyst

When a small node-like substance or a benign which is filled with fluid that occurs very near to the tendons covering and pressing on them, it could lead to pain on top of the foot pain. A Ganglion Cyst could appear at any part of the body, and the result is precisely unknown. 

You should know that these are not cancerous nodes, but still, they can hurt the feet while walking since they press against the muscles. It might be challenging to wear the shoes while the cyst still prevails on the feet and gives a burning sensation. 

If the pain increases, a doctor would recommend you remove the cyst, and in case you find it challenging to wear shoes, you can choose to wear specially padded shoes to support the feet. Moreover, if there is no pain in the cyst, you can wait, but you must see a doctor if the problem increases. 

Peripheral Neuropathy

We have peripheral nerves located outside the brain and the spinal cord responsible for sending sensory information from the brain and spinal cord to other body parts. But if a person’s body has exposure to any infection or injuries that caused trauma, there is a high chance that this nerve might get damaged, leading to Peripheral Neuropathy. People also suffer from this condition if they have inherited a metabolic disorder. 

Other than that, Diabetes could also lead to the development of Peripheral Neuropathy. This condition could show symptoms like tingling and numbing sensation in several parts of the body or burning pain on top of the foot.


Arthritis is one common problem in many individuals. Since our body has several joints, the problem of Arthritis can occur in any part of the body that contains joints. Our toes do have joints located at the base, which are known as Metatarsophalangeal joints. If arthritis occurs in these joints, you would have difficulty walking around at their would-be sharp pain on top of the foot when walking.

Sinus Tarsi Syndrome

It is one condition that causes pain between the ankle and the heel (The lateral side) or on the anterior side of the foot. The most common reason behind this condition is any foot injury that caused trauma. Since it is a syndrome, it occurs due to issues such as chronic injury or ankle sprain.

Hence it not only cause pain on top of the foot but other issues too, such as the feeling of instability of the foot, difficulty to turn your foot, tenderness in the Sinus Tarsi site of the foot, swelling, and much more. The doctor might suggest surgical treatment if the problem does not get better with regular treatments or therapy. 


Gout is a type of Arthritis that leads to stiffness and pain in the joints due to the build-up of uric acid. Apart from affecting the big toe, it could affect the other parts of the body and lead to severe pain on top of the foot. Due to this condition, the affected area would swell up, become more tender on touching, and show signs of redness. 

pain on top of foot


Treatment Options

While the possible causes of pain on top of the foot have been listed above, the immediate action is to diagnose the same. Visiting an expert would help you find the exact problem with your foot and how it could be treated for future improvement. 

Your doctor would ask you to describe any medical history related to joint pain or something similar that might have happened to someone else in the family. The next step would involve asking for imaging tests such as X-Ray, MRI. If these tests are clear, the doctor might look for any other signs that particularly indicate any sickness such as Diabetes or Arthritis. When the diagnosis is made, the proper treatment begins to cure the pain on top of the foot.

The RICE Method

Rice stands for R- Rest, I- Ice, C- Compression, and E- Elevation, and this is the foremost action you can take when you suffer from pain on top of the foot. Athletes first use the ice compression method to get relief if their feet get injured. The compression helps with reducing the inflammation and swelling on top of the feet.

Compression alone is not the only solution, but you need to give your feet rest and stop any activities associated with it like walking, standing, etc. Next is the Elevation method, which is lifting and keeping the feet above the ground to reduce swelling.

Treating the Health Condition

After checking for health conditions like Diabetes or Gouts through blood tests, the doctor would prescribe you medication to treat the disease. In case of a disease like Arthritis, a doctor would prescribe you medications that help repair the joints or slow the damage. If the damage done is too severe, surgical treatments are recommended. 

Treating the condition would automatically improve the other signs and symptoms, such as pain on top of the foot. Usually, anti-inflammatory medications or NSAIDs help improve the inflammation of joints located below the toes (Metatarsophalangeal joints). 

pain on top of foot


Opting for Physical Therapy

Once the doctor gives you enough steroids to heal your condition and help the tendons recover gradually, choosing a good physiotherapist to help your feet mobility might be a wise choice. A physiotherapist would review your situation and recommend exercises that help flexibility your toe’s movement and strengthen the muscles. 

Athletes usually go with this idea since they want to return to their game and play in good form. Physiotherapy is generally recommended for patients with Peripheral Neuropathy or Extensor Tendonitis.

Also Read: Help Yourself With These Knee Strengthening Exercises

Some Other Things to Do and Know

  • Do not indulge in exercises that risk bringing back your condition of top of the foot pain. There are significant chances of recurrent foot injury when you indulge in exercises that are to be done gradually; however, you might not be taking enough precautions or falling enough measures while doing the exercises.
  • If you tend to suffer foot injuries, try wearing supportive shoes. People with diabetes are especially advised to wear shoes that properly fit them and eliminate any chances of sprain or strain on the feet. 
  • If you are into too many physical and athletic activities such as running, dancing, or activities that could highly impact the feet, you must give your feet a day’s rest once in a while. Switching to physical activities that involve less foot injury risk might be a good option on some days. 
  • People who are overweight have a hard time with their feet, especially toes that would swell up. It happens because the body’s entire weight falls in excess on the two feet, so it becomes difficult for them to manage it. Hence, it is necessary to reduce weight as it could be the beginning of several other problems. 

Your pain on top of the foot is a matter of concern, reflecting several possible health issues. Suffering a fracture is different, but if the problem lies inside your body, you should meet an expert and get medical help immediately. 

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