A ganglion, or ganglion cyst, is a fluid-filled swelling of the lining of a joint or tendon. Ganglions can form on any part of the foot, but are most common on the ankle and top of the foot. Ganglions are usually painless, but can become painful if it presses on a nerve.

There is no definitively known cause for a ganglion cyst. Most experts agree that these cysts are caused by trauma to the affected area. This causes tissue to break down into small cysts that can then form larger cysts. Another potential cause of a ganglion cyst can be related to overuse of a certain joints. Repetitive irritation can weaken the lining of the joint or tendon and lead to ganglions.


Ganglion cysts of the foot usually appear as a lump on top of the foot. The lump is typically soft and will change in size. If the cyst puts pressure on the nerves in the overlying skin, it can cause burning, numbness, or tingling.


Ganglion cysts are normally treated by:

  • Immobilization: use a split or brace to limit the movement and stress that can irritate the affected area.
  • Aspiration (drainage): fluid removal may relieve symptoms, though ganglions may return.
  • Shoe modifications: wear shoes with enough room to prevent irritation of the cyst. You can also place pads around the ganglion to ease pressure and friction on the affected area.
  • Surgery: may be required if the cyst is causing severe, ongoing pain and is limiting your range of motion.