The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Caught in the Sinus Tarsi Syndrome

Posted by on Thursday, August 2nd, 2012


I have terrible sinus problems. During bad allergy seasons, I wake up every morning feeling like my head is an overfilled water balloon, with an accompanying ache and dullness that make it very hard to get started on the day. I’m allergic to the main ingredient in most sinus headache medications, so all I can do is take your standard acetaminophen or ibuprofen and hope that does the trick. If it doesn’t, then the sinus headache can turn into a migraine, which is the total opposite of fun.

So needless to say, when I see the phrase “sinus tarsi syndrome” I feel like running and hiding–that is until I realize that the sinus tarsi is located in the ankle, not the nose. Although it really sounds like a location found in a distant corner of outer space, reachable only by high-tech spacecraft.

Capt. Kirk: What’s the nearest star?
Ensign Y: Sinus Tarsi, 250,000 light years away
Capt. Kirk: Well, that’s our only hope. Set our course for Sinus Tarsi.

Now let’s find out the real story about sinus tarsi syndrome and how it does not relate to your nose, or your favorite sci-fi franchise.

Okay, so where is this sinus tarsi? The subtalar joint is made up of the talus and the calcaneous, or heel bone. The sinus tarsi is a bony canal which connects to the subtalar joint. Or, if you want it the easy way, you know that bony bump on the outside of your ankle? The sinus tarsi is just in front of it.

So what is the “syndrome” part? That is when the sinus tarsi becomes inflamed.

Tarnation! Whatever on earth would make a sinus tarsi inflamed? It often comes from overuse when that overuse involves bad mechanics–lots of running while overpronating or exhibiting other kinds of foot awkwardness. Another cause is putting excess pressure on an extremely bent ankle; think of a catcher squatting during a softball or baseball game. Sinus tarsi syndrome is  also related to other ankle issues; most people who develop sinus tarsi syndrome have had ankle sprains.

How would I know I have sinus tarsi syndrome? You’ll feel pain in front of that bumpy bony bit of ankle on the outside of your foot. You may especially notice the pain while running around curves (track athletes who run on tracks, you know what we mean). If you touch that area of your ankle, you’ll notice tenderness. The best way to get an accurate diagnosis, though, is to see a podiatrist at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine (212.996.1900) and have your ankle and foot fully examined.

So let’s imagine I do have this “sinus tarsi syndrome.” How is it treated? Start off with the usual–stop doing the activities that make your ankle (or sinus tarsi) hurt, apply ice, take anti-inflammatories. Ultrasound or laser treatments can also help calm the inflammation. An ankle brace will give the whole ankle support and orthotics can keep the subtalar joint from moving around too much. To prevent it from recurring, a podiatrist may recommend physical therapy to strengthen your ankle and correct any biomechanical problems.

I would be happy if it healed nicely and quickly, but if I had to have an ankle or foot injury, it certainly sounds very impressive to say, “I have ‘sinus tarsi syndrome.'” There is magic in those words–though I’m sure we’d all prefer to avoid ankle or foot injuries, no matter how cool the name.

If, however, you do find yourself stuck with sinus tarsi syndrome, do not fear! Get it taken care of and soon you won’t even remember where to find our friendly bony canal.




If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera 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.