Extensor tendonitis of the foot

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Extensor tendonitis involves inflammation of the extensor tendon that travel along the top part of the foot and straightens the toes. The discomfort or pain is usually felt along the upper part of the foot.

The condition is typically caused by overuse. Wearing ill-fitting shoes or those that are laced tightly that causes pressure on the upper part of the foot can trigger the inflammation of the tendons. Abrupt changes in training especially running uphill or on a treadmill also places increased stress on the extensor tendons at the upper part of the foot.

What are the indications?

Extensor tendonitis of the foot
Pain on the upper part of the foot that is aggravated during running and alleviated by rest

The usual indications of extensor tendonitis include the following:

  • Pain on the upper part of the foot that is aggravated during running and alleviated by rest
  • Pain is likely to occur in a gradual manner over time due to overuse where the individual complains of aching pain on the top part of the foot
  • Diffuse swelling over the upper region of the foot

The symptoms might also be felt if the tendons are stretched out by curling the toes.


It is important to rest until the pain has settled. If the individual continues with activity when the foot is sore, it will only worsen the injury and delay healing. Once it becomes chronic or the tendon deteriorates, healing will be delayed. Apply an ice pack and a compression wrap.

Apply an ice pack for 10 minutes every hour. Once the initial sore phase has passed, it is recommended to apply heat. The footwear used must be appropriate especially those that are not laced too tightly. If the laces are too tight, it places direct pressure over the extensor tendons in the foot.

A rehabilitation program must be started once the pain has fully settled to strengthen the extensor muscles.

Medical care

The doctor will assess the injury and confirm a diagnosis to rule out the possibility of a metatarsal stress fracture. Oftentimes, the pain during passive stretching indicates tendinitis but if there is pain when the toes are pulled outwards, it indicates a stress fracture.

Anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen might be prescribed by the doctor. For long-term issues, a steroid injection might be given but repeated shots should not be given since it can weaken the tendon. In rare instances, surgery is required.

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