The feet are complex structures consisting of dozens of bones, muscles and tendons developed to withstand the rigors of bearing the body's weight. Like other tendons in the body, the tendons of the toes can become inflamed as a result of over use and stress, which can lead to pain and soreness.
Tendonitis, also spelled tendinitis, is a condition where tendons become irritated and inflamed from repetitive use. In the toes, a common form of tendonitis is sesamoiditis--the inflammation and irritation of the tendon, joints and small sesamoid bones on the bottom side of the big toe, where the big toe connects to the bones of the feet. Sesamoiditis is characterized by a gradual onset of pain and soreness a day or two after activity that may increase in intensity over time and further use. Sesamoiditis is common in dancers and athletes who repeatedly push off hard surfaces with their toes, such as long distance runners.
Turf toe is a fairly common injury among athletes that usually occurs when the big toe is bent too far back toward the shin. This causes the ligament and tendons of the big toe joint to become strained or torn, which can result in sudden and acute pain. After incurring turf toe, you will likely not be able to bear weight on the affected toe or foot without significant pain. Turf toe tends to be most common in sports where athletes must push off a hard ground powerfully and change directions often. This tends to occur frequently in football, especially on artificial turf.
Treating painful tendons in the toes and feet is similar to treating tendonitis in other parts of the body. The most important thing to do after pain and soreness starts is rest the affected tendons until the pain dissipates completely. Depending on the severity of the tendon irritation, you may need to use crutches to keep weight off the injured tendons. Applying ice for 15 minutes every few hours while pain persists can help reduce inflammation and speed recovery. Taking medication that reduces inflammation may also help reduce irritation.
Footwear is one of the most important factors in determining foot health. When you wear shoes that don't fit your feet properly, don't provide adequate support, or are worn out, it can lead to tendonitis. For some people, switching to a different pair of shoes may remedy problems with sesamoiditis and other repetitive use pain. It is important to select shoes properly based on your foot type and the activities you plan to partake in. It is wise to get advice from a podiatrist or knowledgeable staff person at an athletic shoe store like a dedicated running store to find out what type of shoes would be best for your feet.
Recovery time for tendon pain can vary greatly depending on the severity of the irritation and whether you strain the tendons before they are fully recovered. Sometimes pain might go away with a few days of rest, while other times tendonitis can become a chronic problem that lasts weeks, months or longer, and recurs frequently. Failure to properly rest a painful tendon before resuming activity will likely lead to more pain and increased recovery time. Don't try any athletic activities until you can walk normally without pain. When resume activity, build up slowly instead of resuming your old activity levels, as doing too much too soon is likely to aggravate the injury.