Even though you work your entire body when running (including your arms, hips and core), your feet bear slot of the burden. So it’s particularly scary when you start to feel a flash of pain every time you take a step—and confusing when you can’t pinpoint the cause. That’s especially true for top-of-foot pain, which, unlike more well-known conditions such as plantar heel pain and shin splints can be difficult to self-diagnose.
The good news is: You’d know it if you had a full-on fracture because you’d barely be able to walk. If you recently increased your training volume or frequency, and feel a gradual onset of pain, it’s unlikely that you’re looking at a fracture or the rupture of a ligament, tendon, or muscle.
The bad news? You could have one of a few other problems, including a stress fracture that could become a full fracture if you aren’t careful. The underlying cause is almost always the rule of toos: too much, too soon, too often, too long. But if the pain still persists after a week of rest, always see a Resonance Podiatrist.
In the meantime, here’s what could be causing your top-of-foot pain in particular, plus what you can do about it.
1. You have tendonitis.
Lots of people associate tendonitis (a.k.a. an inflamed tendon) with knee pain, but it’s also a common cause of top-of-foot pain. You can develop tendonitis of the tibialis anterior tendons, which run from the middle of your leg down to the middle of your foot. How you know you have it: The pain will be concentrated in the middle of your foot and off to the instep, close to your big toe. You might also have shin splints since the tendon starts near your shins. (Two for one!)
2. You have a metatarsal stress fracture.
There are five metatarsal bones in the centre of your foot, and you can develop a metatarsal stress fracture if you go too hard, too fast (this is most common in the second through fourth metatarsal bones). Look out for tell-tale swelling and pain concentrated on the top of your foot over the bones. The swelling could be so bad, you can’t see your veins anymore.
3. You have “vamp disease.”
Vamp disease is a colloquial term for irritation over the top of the foot, and it sometimes happens when runners wear sneakers that are too tight. You can trace the pain exactly to where the tongue of your shoes touches the top of your feet.
4. You have a neuroma.
Neuromas of the forefoot are inflamed and swollen nerves that travel near the metatarsals and feel like a burning sensation. It can also feel like a sharp pain that shoots up through your foot into your toes. There isn’t much space between the metatarsals, so an inflamed and swollen nerve can become aggravated quickly. The cause of that aggravation? Shoes that are too small or too tight around the forefoot.
5. You have arthritis.
There are two common types of arthritis: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis is caused by trauma to, or overuse of, your joints—the cartilage that cushions the bones in your joints deteriorates. Rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, is an autoimmune disorder. While runners are no more likely to suffer from arthritis than anyone else, it’s still a condition that affects millions of people worldwide and can cause foot pain that makes running difficult. You might experience pain, tenderness, stiffness, swelling, or loss of flexibility in your foot.
What to do:
See your Resonance Podiatrist if you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms that won’t go away, so they can determine what course of action will work best for you. They may do X-rays and other types of scans and recommend medications or other types of therapies to help treat your pain.
Call us today to resolve all your foot problems
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