Tarsal tunnel syndrome

​Tarsal tunnel syndrome is a relatively uncommon condition that causes severe pain and numbness in the ankle, foot and toes.

Tarsal tunnel syndrome (also known as tibial nerve dysfunction) can cause severe pain in the ankle, foot and toes. It’s caused by pressure on nerves within the tarsal tunnel, located just behind the large bony bump on the inside of the ankle (medial malleolus).

Tarsal tunnel syndrome is caused by abnormal pressure on the tibial nerve. The nerve passes through the tarsal tunnel, a narrow passage in the ankle made of tarsal ligaments and surrounding bone and tissue. When the ankle ligaments swell, when inflamed or after an injury for example, the nerve may become compressed within the tarsal tunnel. When the nerve is compressed it causes pain and numbness in the ankle. This can occur in one or both the ankles.

The key symptoms of tarsal tunnel syndrome are tingling or burning pain and numbness when standing or walking. These sensations usually begin in the ankle and spread to the toes.

Symptoms can include:

  • Tingling, burning pain or numbness
  • Sensation starts in ankle, spreading to foot and toes
  • May affect one or both ankles

Your doctor can usually identify the condition by discussing your symptoms and after a quick examination of your ankle. You may be referred for further diagnostic tests, such as X-rays or an MRI scan, after which treatment options can be recommended.

MRI scan

MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is a special technique that uses powerful magnets, radio waves and computers to produce detailed images (or scans) of the inside of your body.


An X-ray is used to diagnose and explore a wide variety of conditions mostly in the bones and joints, but can sometimes look at problems affecting soft tissues. They can also be used to monitor on-going conditions.

Tarsal tunnel syndrome surgery

​Tarsal tunnel syndrome treatment can take a number of different forms, depending on the exact cause of the condition within each individual patient.

What next?

If you are suffering with a suspected condition, you should seek the advice of your doctor who will be able to refer you to Benenden Hospital for diagnosis and treatment.

There are four ways to access treatment at Benenden Hospital which include self-funding, using private medical insurance or your Benenden membership, or through the NHS e-Referral scheme.