painful foot

Most likely, you have heard of carpal tunnel syndrome – a condition which affects your wrists and hands. But, have you ever heard of tarsal tunnel syndrome? This condition is a little different, though very similar. Tarsal tunnel sydrome affects your ankles and feet, which causes significant pain, tingling and numbness while walking.


What Is Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome?


The tarsal tunnel is similar to the carpal tunnel in your wrists, except it is located near the anklebone. A thick ligament surrounds it to protect the tarsal tunnel from stress or damage. Tarsal tunnel syndrome happens when a nerve in the tunnel is compressed. This causes pain along the nerve, which stretches down into the foot. This can cause significant problems when walking and can cause your ankles and feet to become fatigued.

What Causes Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome?


The cause of tarsal tunnel syndrome varies from person to person. A few of the most common causes are the following:

  • Flat feet – which cause stress and pressure on the nerve within the tarsal tunnel.
  • Any enlarged or abnormal element near the tarsal tunnel – which compresses it.
  • Ankle injuries, such as spraining or breaking the ankle, can cause tarsal tunnel syndrome due to the inevitable inflammation that occurs. Swelling and inflammation will compress the tunnel and put pressure on the nerve.
  • Diseases such as diabetes and arthritis can also cause tarsal tunnel syndrome.


Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome Symptoms

You should call your doctor if you experience of the following symptoms:

  • A tingling or burning sensation in your ankle that feels similar to an electrical shock.
  • Any numbness in your ankle or foot.
  • Any pain, which includes shooting pain when using your ankle and foot. 


Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome Treatment:


Treatments for this condition are similar to those used for carpal tunnel syndrome. All treatments aim to keep the tarsal tunnel safe and remove pressure from it, which in turn relieves pain, numbness, and tingling. Here are a few of the treatments you may receive if you have this condition:

  • You will need to rest your foot and ankle to ensure inflammation reduction. This also cuts down on pain.
  • If inflammation is causing the syndrome, you will be able to take over-the-counter medications such as NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Your doctor may prescribe other painkillers if you need stronger medication depending on your specific condition.
  • You may need physical therapy to help adequately move your ankle and foot around. This will promote blood flow to the area; more, healthy blood flow will help speed up healing.
  • Injection therapy is another treatment that doctors will perform if this syndrome is too severe for other methods. They will inject a local anesthetic and corticosteroid into the affected area to relieve pain.


One of the best ways to help treat tarsal tunnel syndrome is to purchase well-fitting, supportive orthopedic sandals and shoes. Along with these wellness footwear solutions, doctors may also recommend you wear custom or standard insoles.


Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome Exercises:


Similar to carpal tunnel syndrome, there are many exercises that, when performed properly, can alleviate the pain. Additionally, Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome Physical Therapy is always an option if the discomfort becomes unbearable. Some of the exercises are:

  • The Pencil Lift: place an object such as a pencil on the floor and lift it. Hold that position for about eight seconds or so and drop the pencil. Repeat this a few times for best results.
  • Do a sitting calf stretch by wrapping a towel around your foot and pulling it towards you, stretching your calf.
  • Walk on your toes and heels to stretch your calf muscles. This can help promote ankle strength as well.

LiveStrong has more excellent suggestions for tarsal tunnel syndrome stretches. 


The Orthotic Shop is dedicated to finding the best orthopedic shoes for any foot condition you may have. Our shoes range from regular orthopedic shoes to diabetic shoes. Take a look around and find the right shoes for you today!