The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

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 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.