Author: Chloe Wilson - BSc(Hons) Physiotherapy
Pain on the outside of the foot is a common problem.
The pain may be on the inner side of the foot (medial foot pain) or on the outer side (lateral foot pain).
Symptoms may have come on gradually over time, or developed suddenly with an injury.
Thinking about the location and onset of side foot pain can give us a good indication of what the problem is.
So let's have a look at the most common causes of pain on the side of the foot.
Ligament tears account for 85% of all ankle injuries and are the most common cause of pain on the outside of the foot.
Cause: Rolling over on ankle
Symptoms: Side foot pain, swelling, bruising, instability
Full Article: Ligament Sprains
Cuboid bone shifts out of position, subluxes. Often goes undiagnosed causing ongoing pain.
Cause: Inversion injury (ankle sprain) or repetitive strain
Symptoms: Pain on outside of foot, worse in the morning or when when walking/running esp. on uneven ground
Full Article: Cuboid Syndrome
Repetitive tension through the peroneal tendons causes inflammation & degeneration.
Cause: Frequent overuse e.g. long distance running, abnormal foot position, muscle imbalance, ankle injury
Symptoms: Gradual onset lateral foot pain, worse with activity, hurts to twist foot
Full Article: Peroneal Tendonitis
Small break in one of the foot bones that if left untreated can cause long-term problems.
Cause: Repetitive overloading in sports, running and jumping, sudden increase in activity
Symptoms: Progressive pain, worse with activity, localised swelling, tenderness
Full Article: Foot Stress Fractures
Bunions are a common cause of deformity and pain at the big toe, aka hallux valgus, or little toe, aka bunionette
Cause: Genetics, tight-fitting shoes with pointed toes or high heels, flat feet, arthritis
Symptoms: Big toe rotates inwards, increasing pain and deformity, toes may end up crossing-over each other, redness
Full Article: Bunions & Bunionettes
Corns & calluses are thick, hard, raised areas of skin that frequently develop on the side of the feet and toes
Cause: Excessive friction on the skin from tight shoes, foot deformities, aging
Symptoms: Callus - thick, hardened skin, usually painless. Corns - small, circular areas raised skin, yellow/white, painful
Full Article: Corns & Calluses
Irritation and inflammation of posterior tibial tendon which supports the inner foot arch
Cause: Repetitive overuse e.g. running, jumping or injury
Symptoms: Pain on the inner side of the ankle and foot, worse with activity, flat feet
Full Article: Posterior Tibial Tendonitis
So as you can see there are lots of possible causes of pain on the side of the foot.
Any new incidence of pain on the outside of the foot that doesn't settle down within a few days should be assessed by your doctor. At your appointment they may:
Take A History: Asking lots of questions to find out e.g. when & how the pain started, how it's behaved since, any other symptoms, anything that makes it better or worse and pain severity
Examine Your Foot: Looking at the appearance, movement, strength, functional activities e.g. walking, special tests e.g. to look at integrity of the ligaments
Order Further Investigations: If they feel there may be bone damage you will be sent for an xray. Soft tissue injuries may require ultrasound, CT or MRI imaging. You may also be sent for a blood test
Treatment: Once the doctor has identified what is causing the pain on the outside of your foot, they will advise you on appropriate treatment e.g. exercises, physiotherapy, orthotics or rest.
If you have injured your foot, have severe pain, are unable to walk, have lost sensation in your foot, or your foot has changed colour, see your doctor immediately.
The best treatment for pain on the outside of the foot will depend on what is causing it and what stage you are at in the healing process
Generally, the best place to start is with RICE - a combination of resting from aggravating activities, regularly applying ice, wearing a compression bandage to reduce swelling and support the foot and elevating the leg to help reduce swelling.
After a few days, any swelling should have started to go down and in most cases you can start some gentle foot and ankle exercises. This helps you to regain the full range of movement and strength, aids healing by bringing fresh nutrients to the injured area and puts the right stresses and strains through the soft tissues so that they heal fully in the correct position.
You can find out more about specific treatment techniques for each of the different causes of pain on outside of foot by reading the full articles mentioned above.
If you are having trouble working out what is causing the pain on the outside of your foot, or your foot pain is more widespread, visit the foot pain diagnosis section for help working out what is going wrong.
If you want to find out more about treatment options, including the best exercises to regain strength and function, visit the foot pain treatment section. Don't let pain on the side of your foot get you down, take back control today.
Page Last Updated: 14/11/18
Next Review Due: 14/11/20