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Understanding Tarsal Boss: Bony Lump on Top of the Foot | Find Your Stride | Edinburgh Podiatrist

Have you ever noticed a mysterious lump on top of your foot? It could possibly be a prominence called tarsal boss. In this blog post, we will explore the details of tarsal boss, including its symptoms, causes, and potential remedies, to help you better understand and address this common foot complaint.

Painful foot dorsum
Painful bony lump on top of your foot?

What is it?

Tarsal boss, also known as a dorsal exostosis, is a bony bump that appears on the top surface of the foot near the tarsal bones. These bones are located towards the middle and rear sections of the foot. The lump can vary in size and may cause discomfort or pain, particularly while wearing tight-fitting shoes or engaging in physical activities that place pressure on the affected area.

Why do they happen?

The exact cause of tarsal boss is not always clear. However, repetitive 'microtrauma' or excessive mechanical stress on the tarsal bones seems to contribute to its development. Factors such as high-impact sports, foot mechanics, or even genetic predisposition i.e. foot shape may increase the risk of tarsal boss.

What are the symptoms?

Common symptoms include tenderness, swelling, and the presence of a visible lump on top of the foot. Pain or discomfort can also occur while walking, running, or when pressure is applied. Keep in mind that symptoms may vary between individuals, and not all lumps on the foot are indicative of tarsal boss.

Can they be treated?

If you suspect you have a tarsal boss, it is essential to consult a healthcare professional such as a podiatrist or an orthopedic specialist. After a thorough examination, they may recommend various treatment options based on the severity of your condition. They may also seek to confirm their diagnosis with an x-ray or alternative scan such as a CT, ultrasound or MRI.

Non-surgical management often includes footwear advice (ensuring a good fit and sometimes adjusting laces to relieve stress), the use of orthotic inserts or padding to alleviate pressure and provide support to the affected area. Stretching exercises and physical therapy might also be suggested to improve foot mechanics. In some cases, immobilisation or temporarily avoiding activities that exacerbate the symptoms may be necessary.

Surgical intervention, though rare, may be considered in severe cases. Surgery aims to remove the bony prominence and restore pain free foot function.


Understanding the nature of tarsal boss and seeking appropriate treatment can ultimately help alleviate pain and discomfort. However if concerned it would be sensible to see a podiatrist as lumps and bumps seen on the feet are usually worth investigating.

Find Your Stride!

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