What is tendonitis in the foot?

Tendons are tissue cords in your body that attach muscles to bones. When your tendons become damaged and cause irritation or inflammation, it’s called tendonitis. Tendonitis causes acute pain, swelling, and tenderness in the affected area. This can make it painful or difficult for you to move.

Tendonitis most commonly happens after the repeated incorrect use of a part of the body. In the case of foot tendonitis, your Achilles tendon and other tendons that connect your foot to the bones in your lower leg become injured.

Symptoms of tendonitis in the foot

Tendonitis foot symptoms include pain, tenderness, and soreness around your ankle joint. It may be difficult and painful to move and painful to the touch. Sometimes the affected joint can swell.

Causes of tendonitis in the foot

There are many causes of tendonitis of the foot and ankle. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Abnormal foot structure
  • Medical conditions like rheumatoid arthritis or gout
  • Trauma caused by injury or accident
  • Improper overuse of the foot and ankle

Types of tendonitis in the foot

The most common types of foot tendonitis are:

Achilles tendonitis

The Achilles tendon is the large tendon that attaches the back of your heel to your calf muscle. Achilles tendonitis usually occurs one to four inches above the area where your Achilles attaches to your heel bone. This is the weakest part of the tendon and the location where tendon tears typically occur.

Extensor tendonitis

Extensor tendons run along the top of your foot. Tendonitis in this location is often caused by your foot rubbing against your shoe. It can also be caused by less common inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. If your feet have high arches, they are more vulnerable to the shoe friction that causes this type of tendonitis.

Flexor tendonitis

Flexor Tendonitis usually causes a profound pain deep in the back of your ankle near the inside of your foot. This type of tendonitis is common in dancers or those who are required to do a lot of balancing on their toes.

Peroneal tendinosis

The tendons of the peroneal muscle wrap around the outside of your foot and down towards your ankle. Pain and possibly swelling can occur here and in the area just below and above it.

Posterior tibial tendonitis

This type of tendonitis is usually associated with people who have flat feet. The tendon of your tibialis posterior muscle wraps around the inside of your foot. That area of your foot is where pain and swelling can be felt.

Diagnosis for tendonitis in the foot

Only a licensed healthcare professional can diagnose tendonitis. Your doctor will review your medical history and perform a physical evaluation of the affected foot. They may order X-rays or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan to see whether you have a broken bone or a tendon rupture.

If you frequently experience tendonitis symptoms in the foot, your doctor may recommend that you go see a specialist. A podiatrist can help you identify what the underlying cause of your tendonitis is.

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Treatments for tendonitis in the foot

When you begin to feel pain in your foot, the first recommendation is to follow R.I.C.E., which stands for:

  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Compression
  • Elevation

In other words, you should stop any physical activities. Apply ice to the affected area. Use a compress to keep the pressure on it. Lie down and raise your foot to a level that is above your heart.

The general idea behind treating your foot and ankle tendonitis is to rest so that your body can heal the injury. This takes time, usually a couple of days, but may last as long as a couple of weeks or even months.

If you need to move around, your doctor may give you a walking boot to keep your foot and ankle immobilized. They may also instruct you to stay off the foot completely with the use of crutches or a wheelchair.

To help ease the pain of your foot tendonitis, your doctor will likely prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). You may also be referred to do some physical therapy to help strengthen the muscles around the tendon and reduce the stress on it.

Complications of tendonitis in the foot

There is the potential to injure other parts of your body, like your other foot or leg, for example, by relying on it to reduce the strain of your injured foot caused by foot tendonitis.

It is important to take precautions to not put too much pressure or strain on your healthy leg or foot when treating the foot affected with tendonitis.

Medications that you take for pain or inflammation may have different side effects. Consult your healthcare provider about possible complications of any medications you might take for your tendonitis.

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Medically Reviewed on 3/24/2021
References
American College of Rheumatology: "Tendinitis (Bursitis)."

American Family Physician: "Tendinopathies of the foot and ankle."

BioMed Research International: "Achilles Tendinopathy: Current Concepts about the Basic Science and Clinical Treatments."

EFORT Open Reviews: "Peroneal tendon disorders."

Journal of Athletic Training: "What is the Evidence for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation Therapy in the Treatment of Ankle Sprains in Adults?"

Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care: "Posterior tibial tendon dysfunction: An overlooked cause of foot deformity."

Journal of Orthopaedic Research: "Mechanisms of tendon injury and repair."

OrthoInfo: "Achilles Tendinitis."

Pediatric Rheumatology: "Review for the Generalist: Evaluation of Pediatric Foot and Ankle Pain."

Radiology Case Reports: "Imaging Findings in Two Cases of Fluoroquinolone-Induced Achilles Tendinopathy."