Pain On Outside Of Foot

Written By: Chloe Wilson BSc(Hons) Physiotherapy
Reviewed By: FPE Medical Review Board

Pain On Outside Of Foot: Find out about the common causes of pain on the side of the foot and how to treat them

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.

Causes Of Lateral Foot Pain

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.

1. Ankle Sprains

Ankle sprains are the most common cause of pain on the outside of the foot. Find out about the common causes, symptoms, diagnosis & treatment

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

2. Cuboid Syndrome

Cuboid Syndrome: Ongoing pain after an ankle sprain that just won't settle? Chances are it's cuboid syndrome. Find out about the common causes, symptoms, diagnosis & treatment options

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

3. Peroneal Tendonitis

Lateral Foot Pain - Peroneal Tendonitis: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

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

4. Stress Fractures

Stress fractures are a common cause of foot pain, usually caused by repeated stress through the foot. Find out about the causes, symptoms, diagnosis & treatment options

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

5. Foot Bunions

Bunions cause deformity and pain at the big toe. Find out about the causes, symptoms, diagnosis & treatment of this common cause of pain on the outside of the feet

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

6. Foot Corns & Calluses

Corns & Calluses: How to treat them and stop them coming back

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

7. Posterior Tibial Tendonitis

Inner Foot Pain from Posterior Tibial Tendonitis. Often associated with Flat Feet. Find out how to treat it

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

At The Doctors

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:

  • Take A History: Asking lots of questions to find out e.g. when & how the pain on outside of foot 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 involving the foot 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 your 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 foot pain, are unable to walk, have lost sensation in your foot, or your foot has changed colour, see your doctor immediately.

Treating Pain On Outside Of Foot

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.

  • Rest Ice Compression Elevation: 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.

    When used properly, RICE helps to reduce further damage, speed up healing and reduce pain and inflammation. LEARN MORE >

  • Physical Therapy: As well as advising you on rehab, your physical therapist may also carry out other treatments such as ultrasound or acupuncture for pain on outside of foot. They can also advise on orthotics and whether special shoe insoles will help

  • Exercises: 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. 

    People are often unsure what exercises will help and worry about overdoing things so it is really important to get the right advice. LEARN MORE >

  • Crutches: with severe pain on outside of foot, it may help to use crutches for a few days to take the weight off the foot

  • Surgery: In some cases, foot and ankle surgery may be advised for your lateral foot pain if other treatment methods have failed

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.

What's Causing My Side Foot Pain?

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:

Related Articles

Foot Pain Treatment

Foot Pain Treatment
September 18, 2022

Foot Pain Diagnosis Chart - a great tool to help you work out what is going on

Diagnosis Chart
November 2, 2023

Foot and ankle exercises: Strengthing & Stretching exercises for the foot and calves

Foot & Ankle Exercises
September 29, 2022

Page Last Updated: 05/11/23
Next Review Due: 05/11/25