7 Causes of Pain On Outside of Foot

Are you suffering from pain on outside of foot? Is it when you are weight-bearing or at rest? Does the pain increase with activity or settle?

These are fundamental questions and could mean the difference between foot pain that takes days to recover versus months. There is a substantial list of possible structures on the side of your foot that may be causing the pain. These could be bone, ligament, tendon, muscular, and/or skin-related.

The discomfort is quite mild for most people, lasting only a few hours to a couple of days. For some, however, the pain lingers for months and even years before treatment is finally sought. The foot is a vital part of the body and performs considerable work, yet it is also one of the most neglected.

Ultimately, such negligence to foot health leads to various disorders, with a side of foot pain common across all age groups. Like any other orthopedic problem, pain on the outside of the foot is most intense when weight-bearing activities are undertaken.

What Causes Pain On Outside of Foot?

Side of foot pain is caused by various diseases and conditions, with many factors triggering its onset. Pain in the toes is common and is caused by a wide range of conditions; pain along the side of the foot is often attributed to stress fractures, with pain from ankle injuries radiating along the side of the foot.

This article offers advice to help you find out what is causing pain in the side of the foot so you can get rapid relief from the pain and discomfort.

A list of the most common causes of pain Outside of the foot include:

causes of pain Outside of the foot
  • Navicular Stress Fracture
  • Mid tarsal joint sprains
  • Peroneal Tendonitis
  • Extensor Tendonitis
  • Tibialis Posterior Tendonitis
  • Plantar Fascial Strain/Tear
  • Anterior Tendonitis

A less common list of pain on the outside of the foot includes:

  • Cuneiform stress fracture
  • 5th Metatarsal Fracture
  • Cuboid stress fracture
  • The base of 2nd metatarsal stress fracture
  • Kohler’s disease (if in young children)
  • Tarsal coalition/joint fusion
  • Cuboid syndrome
  • Abductor Hallucis strain

1. Bunions

Bunions are a common cause of foot pain and one of the best-known and easily diagnosed complaints. This is a bony outgrowth on the outside of the foot, at the first metatarsophalangeal joint, or the joint at the base of the big toe as it is more commonly known.

These outgrowths are most commonly protrusions of the metatarsal head outwards, although, in some instances, they can form at the top of the joint. The bunions are not restricted to the feet and may occur on the wrist or other joints in response to prolonged pressure.

Bunions can become inflamed and highly painful, hot to the touch, and swollen, with broken skin prone to infection to make matters worse. They can make wearing shoes difficult and are often caused by poor footwear and poor posture. Read our bunion corrector guide. For more information on how to treat bunions, read this article: Guide to bunion treatment.

2. Bunionettes

A bunionette or a tailor’s bunion is a small bump that forms on the outside of the foot, where the little toe joints the body of the foot. Typically, the bones under a bunionette protrude, which then rub against the side of the shoes.

The joint can become inflamed, as can the skin. Bunionettes are similar to bunions except for the location and the size, with the smaller protuberance due to the smaller size of the metatarsal head in the smallest toe.

Their location can easily distinguish them. An individual with bunions is more likely also to have these bony growths on both sides of the feet. Check out this post for more information on tailor’s bunions: How to get rid of tailors bunions.

3. Arthritis

Arthritis is highly prevalent and affects millions of people worldwide, and is the leading cause of disability affecting people in the United States.

There are many different forms of arthritis, although the most common are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gouty arthritis; each has a specific mode of action and different causes, but all-cause joint problems, pain, and mobility issues.

With many bad habits and poor lifestyle practices now commonplace, the prevalence of arthritis increases, with many facing this debilitating condition later in life. Arthritis is a chronic disorder with no absolute cure, although you can manage the symptoms and pain.

3. Inversion Sprain

One of the most common injuries experienced by avid exercisers, runners, and sports lovers is sprains, specifically in the ankle, known as the inversion sprain. Anyone can sprain their ankle even by quite innocuous activities.

A slight twist or slip, especially on wet, frozen, or snowy ground, is all it can take. Sprains often occur during activities that place an increased strain on the ankles, with high-impact activities that involve running, jumping, and making fast turns the most likely to lead to sprains.

The most common type of ankle sprain is an inversion sprain, where the ankle turns outward and the foot inwards, thus damaging the ligaments that run down the outside of the foot.

This can cause considerable pain and will almost certainly make weight-bearing activity impossible, and it will highly restrict movement without strapping. Anyone who overpronates when running is automatically at a disadvantage.

The inward rolling in of the foot with this gait, together with the body’s full weight exerted on the ankle, can make inversion sprains more likely.

4. Foot Fracture

In some cases, a sprain may accompany a fracture of a bone, especially following a fall. However, foot fractures need not be caused by a single traumatic event, with stress fractures often forming following prolonged overtraining and overuse.

The damage can be very severe, with a full fracture requiring a cast to be worn to keep the bones straight and the ankle proper healing.

A fragment can be torn away from the main bone in severe cases. This type of fracture is called an avulsion, a common cause of side of foot pain among athletes. Severe swelling, redness, and tenderness on the side of the foot are also evident.

5. Navicular Stress Fracture

A Navicular stress fracture is often misdiagnosed and can lead to many weeks/months off activity. The small bone at the top of the arch is overworked and fatigued.

Runners with large amounts of pronation or mid/forefoot striking can place too much stress on this structure of the foot and inevitably cause pain side of the foot.

6. Cuboid Syndrome

Unlike arthritis or sprains, Cuboid syndrome affects both the joints and ligaments of the cuboid, one of the main bones that form the lateral side of the foot.

The classic symptom of cuboid syndrome is side foot pain, especially during weight-bearing activity or sudden impact. Foot weakness is also a common complaint.

Dancers and runners are the common patients diagnosed with cuboid syndrome, as running and jumping can considerably strain the foot.

Please find out more about the conditions and how to treat them effectively in the cuboid syndrome treatment section.

7. Tarsal Coalition

Tarsal coalition is not one of the most commonly known foot conditions and affects the tarsal bones at the rear of the foot. The foot can be divided into three sets of bones. The toes are termed the phalanges, the midfoot the metatarsal, and the collection of bones at the rear of the foot, the tarsals.

Tarsal coalition is known by other names such as tarsal synostosis, tarsal dysostosis, and peroneal spastic flatfoot. It is an abnormality between two tarsal bones in the midfoot and rearfoot, connected during bone development in the early stages of life. The connection can be bone or cartilage, or even fibrous tissue.

Consult a Doctor or Podiatrist or visit the Emergency Room

Foot problems nearly always warrant seeking medical attention, as the symptoms can be very debilitating. Principally, it is important to know basic first aid interventions when foot pain is felt, especially right after traumatic injuries.

Anyone should know the acronym RICE by heart: R for rest, I for immobilization, C for compression, and E for elevation. Most especially in the cases of sprains and fractures, immediate splinting with a compression bandage is crucial to maintain the normal alignment of the bones and avoid further deformities.

Keeping the affected foot rested, immobilized, and elevated to avoid further trauma and reduce swelling is important. A visit to a doctor will determine the extent of the problem, and they can prescribe the best treatment to match the cause of your side of foot pain.

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