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Tips to Treat Extensor Tendonitis

October 5, 2018
Female athlete with foot pain on running track on a sunny day.

Extensor tendons are just under the skin at the top of the feet and enable the foot to flex and raise the toes. Tendons are bands of tissue that connect muscles to bones. In the feet, they connect the bones of the toes to the muscles in the front of the legs. Foot tendonitis is caused by inflammation of the tendons, which is usually due to overuse from repetitive movements, an injury such as an ankle sprain, improperly fitting footwear, or shoelaces that are too tight. This condition is common in dancers, figure skaters, skiers, and runners. Chronic tendonitis leads to tendinosis, which is non-inflammatory degeneration of the tendon and takes much longer to heal.  


Symptoms of extensor tendonitis include:

  • Pain localized to the top of the foot
  • Pain worsens with activity
  • Crepitus or crackling noise at the affected tendon site
  • Stiffness of the joint
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Redness, warmth or swelling


Note: Numbness may be a sign of a more serious condition, compartment syndrome. Diagnosing extensor tendonitis requires a physical exam by a DOC orthopedist who will discuss the guest’s history of pain and symptoms. The doctor may order X-rays or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to view the bones, muscles, and tendons around the injury and confirm the diagnosis.  


The goal of treatment is to reduce irritation, inflammation, and pain in the top of the foot. Treatment may include:

  • Rest to allow the tendon to heal
  • Ice to reduce pain and inflammation
  • NSAIDs or Acetaminophen to reduce pain and inflammation
  • Shoelace technique to avoid pressure on the tender areas
  • Exercises to improve strength and endurance
  • Orthotics for padding and foot support to take tension off the tendons
  • Steroid injections for persistent pain to reduce inflammation
  • Walking boot to keep foot and ankle immobilized during the healing process
  • DOC physical therapy to strengthen the extensor muscles and promote ankle stability and healing


Surgery to repair extensor tendonitis is rare and usually reserved for unique cases that do not respond to conservative treatment options. The DOC orthopedic surgeon will customize treatment to achieve the best outcome for a guest’s extensor tendonitis condition. 

For more information on the cost of care, click here.


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