Today we’re going to be reviewing some of the best running shoes for top-of-foot pain and extensor tendonitis.
The pain might feel like an intermittent sharp pain on top of the foot, a burning, a tingling sensation, or a stabbing sensation especially when you’re moving your ankle joints and trying to extend your toes.
The shoes we’re reviewing have actually helped lots of runners concentrate more on the miles ahead and not on their top of foot discomfort.
Let’s dive right into it…
Best Running Shoes for Top of Foot Pain
Saucony Kinvara 11
The Kinvara has been one of the most beloved shoes in Saucony’s lineup for over a decade now.
This 11th iteration is a great trainer for those who need a shoe for their top-of-foot pain and are looking for some faster pace mileage. It feels snappy and responsive.
It’s one of those shoes that can go the distance and still give you enough cushion to get you through longer runs.
What makes the Kinvara 11 a great option for top-of-foot pain?
The key feature that makes this version a good option is the upper.
The upper is pretty similar to previous models. It’s still an engineered mesh and it’s super-breathable, super-light, and flexible. The upper helps the shoe stay light, breathable, and seamless.
The best way that I can describe the upper is that it feels like you’re almost wearing nothing. It has a little give to it but still maintains a snug fit when you’re on the move.
The lacing system is also similar to the other Saucony shoes. Saucony have taken away the ISOFIT system and it’s just your more traditional laces.
The heel counter is a little bit stiff but nothing crazy because this is the only form of motion control you get from the shoe.
Saucony have taken EVERUN almost completely out of their lineup and replaced it with the new PWRUN.
The idea behind PWRUN is that it’s a little bit softer, lighter, bouncier, and a little bit snappier than their old foam so you’re getting even more out of your shoe for less weight.
Energy return is a real thing and the Kinvara 11 gives it to you in a nice lightweight package.
The outsole is an extension of the midsole. This is what keeps the Kinvara so flexible and nimble to help you transition quickly from landing to takeoff.
The Kinvara 11 will work on roads, grass, dirt, and on the track. It does OK on some light trails but the outsole isn’t ideal for that kind of surface, and that’s just my advice.
You’re wearing this on your speed days, on your race days, and when the conditions are good.
With that in mind, Saucony didn’t want to have any excess on their outsole to keep it as light as possible.
You’ve got a little bit of rubber towards the outside of the heel and on the big toe for some reinforcements.
Other than that, you’ve got almost nothing on the outsole except for an extremely light tread.
Overall, the Kinvara 11 is optimized for speed to help you chase down those PRS.
Read the full review of Saucony Kinvara 7.
Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21
The Adrenaline 21 is a long-standing shoe in the stability category for Brooks.
Also, the Adrenaline is a really great treadmill shoe. So, if you’ve got a sweaty treadmill winter ahead of you, this would be ideal.
The Brooks Glycerin 19 GTS is the more cushioned version of the GTS Adrenaline. Here’s a comparison of the Glycerin 19 GTS vs the neutral Glycerin.
Stability (for overpronators and neutral runners)
Instead of the traditional medial posting which typically runs along the inside of the shoe, Brooks are using a technology that they call Guide Rail.
Think about Guide Rail like a rumble strip for your foot that when you sort of veer out of lane, it corrects you and it brings you back.
This is what makes the Adrenaline so cool because it’s really a trainer that can be used for a person with a neutral foot or a person who pronates because the Guide Rail technology won’t really kick in unless you need it.
So, as a neutral runner myself, when I put on a stability shoe, I usually tend to notice that my foot’s being corrected a little bit and my stride feels a little bit off because it’s not what I’m used to.
However, with the Adrenaline, I don’t notice that at all, and I actually think it’s a really great trainer for any kind of runner.
There’s a slightly lighter mesh upper that’s super breathable and really comfortable.
The other change is in the foam. The DNA Loft foam which used to only run partway through the shoe now runs from heel to toe on the inside complementing the Guide Rail technology.
This Loft foam is quite firm and super responsive. So, if you’re someone who likes a plusher trainer, this might not be a fit for you. But if you’re someone who likes a firm ride, you’ll love the Adrenaline.
When it comes to the outsole, it’s a pretty classic traditional rubber outsole, which works really well on slightly slick roads and even something that is a little bit icy.
With that said, this really isn’t a winter running shoe, this is a shoe to use on a dry day or a shoe to use on the treadmill when you’re dealing with the colder months.
The Adrenaline is a great easy day, everyday trainer. I would even call this a long run shoe just because it does run on the light side.
If you’re a neutral runner and you’re looking for a reliable long run shoe, this actually might feel great in the last 3k or so of your long run when your foot’s fatiguing a little bit and maybe your arches are collapsing and you actually find that the Guide Rails provide some added support that can be helpful for you.
Last but not least, the Adrenaline is one of these top picks for runners with flat feet.
Saucony Ride ISO 2
The dependable and smooth-riding Saucony is back with the Ride ISO 2. The Ride series is an award-winning road running shoe. It provides a ride that’s the perfect blend of cushioning and responsiveness.
The Ride ISO is a neutral runner. It doesn’t have any kind of motion control or stability built into it, but it’s just meant to be a good overall shoe for someone who has just a normal type foot.
This shoe is going to come with that traditional 8-millimeter offset that Saucony is known for. The offset gives a fair bit of cushioning to the shoe even though it retains a fairly lightweight.
The outsole is actually going to use this crystallized rubber instead of the IBR+ in the forefoot.
Combining this traction with the midsole, the Ride ISO 2 is going to provide a smoother ride and more support as it cradles your foot inside the shoe.
Compared to the Rides ISO 1, the ISO 2 increases the outsole flexibility and definitely offers a smoother ride and better traction.
The insole is nothing special, it’s just going to be that typical Saucony underfoot sock liner and that’s okay because they have that top layer of EVERUN that’s going to be between your foot and the Strobel board before you hit that PWRUN foam midsole.
Moving on to the upper, Saucony is going to provide structure and support where needed with this nice double layer mesh on both the upper and on the toe box.
Once again, ISOFIT is back in this Ride ISO 2. If you are a big fan of this ISIFIT lacing technology, this is going away in the next Ride 13. So, if you’re a fan of this, I would stockpile as many of these as you can.
The midsole of this shoe is actually comprised of what Saucony is calling PWRUN foam, but then underneath the sock liner and on the top layer of that PWRUN is going to be their patented EVERUN technology.
This is supposed to center the foot, absorb shocks, and distribute the pressure across the whole shoe.
The Ride ISO is very smooth on the inside and there won’t be any kind of sore spots on your feet after running.
Mizuno Wave Inspire 16
This version pretty much stayed exactly the same as far as the bottom unit, but the upper did get an update. This is their most popular shoe in their support category.
The update this season sees a brand new upper. This has a nice sleek internal toe cap and some really lovely overlays through the midfoot area that provide that extra stability required on the run.
The Wave Knit upper is going to give you a more accommodating fit. It’s going to move with your foot a little bit better and just kind of fit on your foot a little bit better.
Mizuno did tweak the eyelet position around your foot so that’s going to give you a more locked-in feel without pressing on the top of your foot too much.
In fact, Raffi on Amazon says this eyelet feature helped him relieve any pressure points on top of his feet. Read his review (Sponsored).
The Wave Inspire 16 showcases their signature technology, the Wave Plate. This technology provides cushioning at heel strike and stability. You can see these wave amplitudes higher at the rear foot on the medial side.
The Wave Inspire 16 also has a U4ic X heel wedge which provides a really soft and cushioned landing for the runner.
The Inspire is also available in both standard and wide fits for men and women.
This model is the perfect shoe for the runner that’s looking for a supportive yet responsive ride.
Brooks Ghost 13
This is the 13th edition of the shoe and luckily for those who liked the previous version, not any big crazy changes have been made.
So, if this was your go-to shoe, it should still stay that and be a great option. But if you haven’t tried the Ghost, you won’t be disappointed.
Starting with the top, there’s a new knitted mesh material that’s going to have a little bit more of a relaxed fit and also add a little bit of breathability.
Overall, that’s going to make the top of the shoe feel like it’s just an extension of your sock, which is ideal for runners looking for a shoe that doesn’t press too much on the top of their feet. Yet, you’re also going to get a nice secure lockdown feel.
Again, the Ghost has got a new engineered airflow mesh for a more breathable and just a hair lighter upper, which makes the overall shoe a little bit cooler and a little bit lighter than the previous version.
It doesn’t cause any irritation or hot spots which is something we often appreciate.
Midsole & Outsole
The biggest change is going to come in the midsole material. In the previous model, the DNA Loft only extended through the heel of the shoe.
But now, they’ve extended it to go through the midsole and through the toe for a nice smooth toe-off.
The DNA Loft foam helps to cut some weight as it weighs a little bit less, but it also gives it a really nice plush cushioned comfortable ride.
The Ghost is not going to be overly soft and you’re still going to get some nice responsiveness off the toe.
That’s going to come from some added flex grooves cut into the outsole that extend into the midsole and that’s going to add some flexibility and continue to give you a nice pop off the toe.
The flex grooves make sure you have no trouble with traction and help you feel confident on grass, dirt, and sidewalks. You might be able to get away with some light trails but don’t get carried away.
The flexibility of the shoe in the forefoot was increased just a bit, which helps keep that natural stride intact.
The Brooks Ghost series isn’t one of those upgrades that changes everything and makes you want to cut in line to get a pair.
It is consistent in being true to itself with just the right upgrades to help improve the shoe over time.
It’s a great shoe for just anybody who wants a shoe that can do it all. Whether it’s a short run or a long run, the Brooks Ghost 13 is a solid shoe that will get you out and running without any gimmicks.
Overall, that combination of relaxed upper mesh, soft cushion foam, and nice pop off the toe make the Ghost a great option for just about any type of run and just about any type of runner especially those looking for a great shoe for their top-of-foot pain.
How to optimize the efficiency of the shoe
Rest, ice, compression, elevation. This technique can be used any time you have an injury, swelling, or any pain in the joint or muscle tissue.
When you are using RICE to treat an injury or swelling, you want to make sure you actually take ample time to rest the injury. Your body cannot heal itself and get better if you continue to aggravate it and do any motion or physical activity that was causing the discomfort in the first place.
Ice is also really important for bringing down any inflammation and helps reduce some pain. Make sure you get some good ice and put it on the top of your foot.
The next thing to do is compress the ice onto the top of your foot with a towel or an ace wrap to put some pressure and force the ice down on the injury.
You lay down, get comfortable, put your leg up and elevate it. Make sure you use a pillow underneath your leg or prop your leg up against the side of the couch to elevate the injury above the heart level.
Running Shoe Lacing for Top Of Foot Pain
LOCK LACES (Elastic No Tie Shoelaces)
These laces are great to distribute the pressure on top of your feet evenly, thus relieving the pain significantly. They have 7.5/5 and about 8000 reviews on Amazon. Check them out.
The Lydiard Lacing / Ladder Lacing Running Shoes
Anatomy of the top of the foot
Looking at the detailed anatomy of the top of the foot, there are several things that are quite prominent and can explain possible causes to pain on the top of the foot.
The yellow structures represent small cutaneous nerves right under the skin. That’s followed by the white kind of clear-ish structures.
These are the extensor tendons that help raise the foot when you’re walking or running. The final thing we have are the bones.
So we have tendons, nerves, and bones. Typically, it’s going to be one of those three things that can cause pain to the top of the foot.
Some of the symptoms if the pain on the top of your foot is related to the cutaneous nerves are usually numbness, burning, or tingling.
That numbness and tingling may be isolated right in the middle of the foot or it may shoot down to the toes.
These nerves do provide sensation to the top of the toes. Usually, runners complain about pain and numbness (Neuritis) especially when they lace their running shoes too tight or if they have high arches.
Your foot moves in all different directions, up, down, left, and right. First.
The extensor muscles in your foot point
your toes up and bring your foot up as well.
So if you have shoes that are very tight, or you’re lacing your shoes really tight, it could be pressing down on the top part of your foot especially if you have high arches.
This can cause Extensor Tendonitis to happen by too much pressure being placed on those tendons.
Tight calves can cause Tendonitis of the extensors too because the calves pull your foot down.
With tight calves, the extensor muscles are going to have to work harder to bring your foot up making the tendons inflamed as well.
Pain on the top of your foot as a result of a problem with the bones is referred to as a stress fracture.
Stress fractures specifically manifest themselves as pain especially as you go off the ball of your foot and you’re running, you’re going to feel pain in the area shown in the picture below.
One of the characteristics of stress fractures is that you’re going to generally see a mild amount of swelling on the top of the foot.
Also, when you press with your thumb and your index finger right over the shaft of the bone that’s injured, you are going to have a significant tenderness and pinpoint pain on a small area. It’s generally not going to be diffused throughout the top of the foot.
So really understanding the anatomy of the top of the foot gives you a much better idea as to what may be going on.
We know that most of the pain on the top of the foot is typically going to be three things: a nerve issue, a tendon issue or a bone issue.
But it can be difficult to discern which one that is just based on what the symptoms are. A lot of times we need diagnostic testing such as an X-Ray, MRI or Ultrasound.
Other foot injuries
Posterior Tibial Tendonitis
You also have a muscle on the inner part of the foot that commonly gets inflamed. This type is called Posterior Tibial Tendonitis. The Posterior Tibialis muscle is responsible for holding up the inner arch of the foot, and if your feet are very flat, you put a lot of stress on the tendon supporting that arch. The tendon becomes overstressed and overworked, and this is how you can get Tendonitis here from having flat feet.
The Flexor Tendonitis happens to the muscles that bend your toes. Runners, dancers, ballerinas can get that because they overuse those muscles and then the tendons become inflamed.
Basically, if you have bad footwear, you overuse the muscles in your foot and this can lead to Tendonitis of the foot.
Sinus Tarsi Syndrome
Sinus Tarsi Syndrome (STS) is a condition that is not very well known. It’s commonly thought of to be a problem with the ankle and it’s truly not. There’s a joint that’s below your ankle joint that allows for movement on unstable surfaces such as walking on the sand or trail running. This is the joint that allows for you to be able to adapt to those changing surfaces especially when they’re not even. Sinus Tarsi Syndrome is an inflammation inside this joint that leads to pain typically on the outer part of your foot and usually thought of as being part of an ankle sprain; it’s a condition on its own.
It’s important that it’s not misdiagnosed and it is often missed. If you think that your injury is lingering and you don’t understand why there’s pain coming from the outer part of your foot just below your ankle, go see a podiatrist to determine whether STS is affecting you.
Clawed toes / crooked toes/mallet toes
These conditions are all names of the foot ailment called hammertoes. The picture shows a comparison of a normal foot and a foot with hammertoes. (0.27). As you can see, a normal foot has straight flattened toes. In comparison, a foot with hammertoes has toes that look pinched or crooked. Like bunions, hammertoes are unsightly and can cause great discomfort.
Related: Best running shoes for bunions
Symptoms may include:
- Protruding toe knuckles prone to corns or that are rubbing your shoes.
- A long toe that’s crowded or bent
- Raised toes that don’t fall flat on the ground
- A bunion that’s bending the second toe
- Extra pain and pressure on the bottom of your toes or toe pads.
If you have any or all of those symptoms, then you most likely have hammertoes.
Genetics can play a large role in whether you develop the ailment, but there are also other causes. A few causes of hammertoes include:
- Shoes that are too tight or too short.
- Pointy high heels
- Flat feet or high arches (make your feet less stable)
- Arthritis or injury to the foot (cause you to walk unnaturally)
- Bunions that push your second toe out of place.
Discomfort from hammertoes can start off mild but eventually makes walking and running difficult as it gets worse. Some cases may require surgery. We suggest you consult a podiatrist for a professional diagnosis.
There are some solutions that most people with hammertoes have found relief in, and these include:
Wear roomy shoes. By simply wearing roomy shoes with a wider toe box, you can accommodate existing hammertoes and prevent others from developing.
Cushion it with padding. If you already have hammertoes, use corn pads or cushions to help reduce rubbing and irritation on top of the bent toes or the bottom toe pads.
Show support with insoles. Add supporting shoe inserts and orthotics. Inserts and orthotics help foot muscles work together better and keep toes from bending.
Straighten up by keeping toes naturally positioned. This will help to reduce irritation from your toes rubbing in shoes. Try toe straighteners, toe caps, and toe loops.
You do not have to be an athlete to contact and get Athlete’s Foot. There are many different types of Athlete’s Foot
typically caused by dermatophytes, or fungus. This is the same type of fungus that can cause a problem with fungal or ugly toenails.
One type is a result of too much moisture and sweating in the foot and you get a white-ish area that forms between the toes and causes itching. Another type is a very dry scaly type of an Athlete’s Foot that can be all on the bottom of the sole of the foot and it can be a chronic long-lasting type of a situation. The other type is a more acute type of a situation where all of a sudden you’ll get a lot of little vesicles or fluid sacs that break open and cause itching and there’s redness around the area. The last type is when it’s severe like that and it also has a secondary bacterial infection.
It’s important to determine the cause of the Athlete’s Foot in the proper type of treatment.
Gout is typically characterized by a sudden onset of acute pain, redness, and swelling. It typically occurs in the big toe joint. There usually is no history of injury to the area. One goes to bed and the attack either occurs while you’re sleeping or you first notice it when you get out of bed in the morning. Patients describe the pain as so intense that just sheets alone touching it can cause excruciating pain. So what is it? How does it occur?
Our bodies normally make uric acid when we break down purines, it’s normal. Sometimes, however, we make too much uric acid either through overproduction or underexcretion. Purines are normally in our body and they also occur in some foods. If we get too many purines, our bodies can’t handle the amount of uric acid it makes. The uric acid is then converted into urate crystals which are tiny needle-like crystals that get deposited into the joint. It typically occurs on your first attack in your big toe joint. On subsequent attacks, it can occur in any joint.
Gout is a serious condition, but the good news is through diet modification and medications, it can be well controlled.
I hope you learned something new from our “best running shoes for top of foot pain” article. Stay safe.