Written By: Chloe Wilson BSc(Hons) Physiotherapy
Reviewed By: FPE Medical Review Board
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. If your pain is more on the inner side of your foot, check out the Inner Foot Pain article.
There are a number of different things that can cause pain on the outside of the foot. Here we will start by looking at the most common causes, then we'll go on to look at the diagnosis process and the best treatment options.
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
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 the doctor will:
If you have injured your foot, have severe foot 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.
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 about your specific foot problem.
So as you can see there are lots of possible causes of lateral foot pain each of which present slightly differently:
If you have noticed a lump on the side of your foot which may or may not be painful, check out the Lump On Side Of Foot article.
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.
You may also be interested in the following articles:
Foot Pain Treatment
September 18, 2022
January 30, 2023
Foot & Ankle Exercises
September 29, 2022
Page Last Updated: 05/11/23
Next Review Due: 05/11/25