Pain on the top of the foot can be caused by a trauma, stress fracture, pulled tendons or certain types of arthritis. Doctors consider whether the pain is sudden, gradual, intense or mild when determining the cause of the pain.
When the pain comes on suddenly but is not due to trauma, it is often the result of a stress fracture. If the sudden pain is felt behind the toes, that is likely a fracture of the metatarsal bone. When the middle or outer areas of the top of the foot are hurting, it is often due to the tendons that reside there. The tendons may be inflamed and causing pain with a condition called extensor tendonitis.
Degenerative arthritis is a common type of arthritis that can affect the foot and cause pain on the top of the foot. This is often the cause of foot pain where the top of the foot looks swollen and thicker than normal. It is not uncommon in people with flat feet or a lower arch. Degenerative arthritis is also related to the big toe joint, where most of the foot pain is felt near the big toe.
Treatment for top foot pain depends on the cause, ranging from custom orthotics to anti-inflammatory pain relievers.