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Tarsal Pain on the Right Side of Foot from Running

By Andrea Cespedes

The tarsal area lies at the top of the foot, just in behind the toes and in front of the ankle. If you're experiencing pain on the right, or outer, side of the foot, it's likely involving connective tissue or the small bones that make up the outer edges of the foot and the toes -- the calcaneus, cuboid, metatarsals or phalanges. Running can create or intensify issues in this tarsal region. Foot pain is not normal and usually requires a doctor's intervention so you don't worsen your condition.

Stress Fractures

If you experience pain and sudden swelling, you may have a fracture in one of the outer foot bones. You'll have trouble putting your weight on the foot. If the pain comes on more gradually and intensifies when you put weight on it -- such as during running -- you may have a stress fracture. A stress fracture usually occurs from repetitive activity and manifests as a hairline crack. When the pain is on the outer foot, your calcaneus or the fifth metatarsal could be involved. A stress fracture in the fifth metatarsal may be a "Dancer's fracture" caused by a twisting injury. A "Jones fracture" occurs farther down the base of the fifth metatarsal and is more likely a result of the repetitive action of running.

If you continue to run on a stress fracture and fail to treat it, it could turn into a full-on fracture, which requires more intense rehabilitation.

Extensor Tendonitis

The condition extensor tendonitis, usually occurs in the middle to the right outside of the top of the foot. It happens when the tendons that attach to the toes, or phalanges, inflame. Tight calf muscles, which often occur in runners, is a common cause. Talk to your doctor about an orthotic insert for your shoes, but stretching the calves and wearing shoes with a bit of heel can also help.

Tarsal Coalition

Young adults and kids may experience pain on the outer top portion of the foot due to a condition -- often hereditary -- in which two or more bones in the middle of the foot are fused. Running, as well as other activity, makes the pain worse. Early diagnosis and treatment prevents the problem from turning into a crippling arthritis later in life.

Ligament Inflammation

If you're experiencing pain at the top of the foot just below the ankle joint on the pinky-toe side of the foot, it could be due to inflammation of the ligaments just below the extensor digitorum brevis muscle. The ligaments rest underneath the muscle between two bones in an area called the sinus tarsi. Flat feet can also push the ligaments together, pinching them so tightly that they cause bone-on-bone pain.

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