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Causes of Pain on Side of Foot, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatments and Preventions

Pain on side of foot or lateral foot pain can be due to wide range of possible causes. It can be sudden or develop gradually over time. The seriousness of such pain can range from mild to moderate to severe. Having a prior knowledge on the underlying causes and symptoms of pain on side of foot can help you have a good insight on the potential effective treatments. In this post, we will look at the most common causes of foot pain, symptoms and diagnosis as well as the best treatments and preventions

Causes of Pain on Side of Foot, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatments and Preventions
Causes of Pain on Side of Foot

Common causes of pain on side of foot

Some of the possible causes of side foot pain can be easily managed at home but you must see your General Practitioner (GP) when your suspect your pain is becoming severe or it is persistent. Let us now have a look at some of the common causes of pain on side of your foot:

Tendonitis foot/ ankle tendonitis

There are five types of foot tendonitis. The common types of tendonitis that cause side of foot pain are peroneal tendonitis and posterior tibial tendonitis.

Peroneal Tendonitis

Tendonitis foot ankle tendonitis side of foot pain
Tendonitis foot ankle tendonitis side of foot pain

Peroneal tendonitis occurs when there is recurrent tension on the peroneal tendons. This triggers foot pain on the side of the foot as well as bottom of foot pain. Peroneal tendonitis can be influenced by wrong positioning of the foot, ankle sprain, excessive running, and muscle imbalance among other causes. Pain on outside foot due to peroneal tendonitis have gradual onset and can take long period before they settle.


Some of the common linked symptoms comprise of side foot pain, irritation, inflammation and degeneration.


Below are the possible treatment for this condition:

  • Make sure you have a rest to avoid activities that worsen the associated symptoms. This will enhance the healing process.
  • Apply cold therapy for instance; you can use cold compresses or ice to reduce some symptoms such as swelling.
  • Support brace or bandage can be used to limit the inflammation.
  • You can elevate your foot to make sure that your ankle is above your heart.
  • Get yourself involved in strengthening and stretching exercise to reduce the tension on the peroneal tendons. This will for sure speed up the healing process. Alternatively, during your training, you should make sure that you don’t overdo it. If situations may demand then just increase the distance, intensity and frequency of your exercise by not more than 10 percent.
  • Orthotics: sometimes your peroneal tendonitis can be caused by unusual foot shape. Now, if that is the case then you can add inserts to your foot wear to control the deformity and hence increase the stability. You can achieve this by liaising with your doctor to decide for you the correct insoles for your case.
  • In some case, physical therapy can also be effective especially when the pain is due to joint or bone stiffness. This can be done alongside ultrasound therapy to reduce the inflammation.
  • Some medications such as non-steroids anti-inflammatories can also be used to help reduce the pain but you should contact your doctor for prescription.

Posterior Tibial Tendonitis

Inner side foot pain can be due to posterior tibial tendonitis. This condition occurs when the tendons supporting the foot arch is interfered with. It results from overuse or injury of the foot leading to irritation, inflammation and degeneration of the tendons leading to foot arch pain. Any activity e.g. walking, running etc. can worsen the pain.

Posterior Tibial Tendonitis
Posterior Tibial Tendonitis

Symptoms are treatment are similar to those of peroneal tendonitis

Ankle sprain

This is the most common causes of pain on side of foot. It is more prevalent in those aged 35 years and below. Ankle sprain is usually known to affect ligaments especially the Anterior Talofibular Ligament.

ankle sprain is another possible reason for pain on the sid eof foot
ankle sprain is another possible reason for pain on the sid eof foot

This come into being when you roll your foot inwards while the ankle rolls outwards. This is what is actually called inversion injury and it leads to tearing of some ligament fibers if not all. The result will be swelling, bruising, instability and pain on side of foot. In some cases, if you have an ankle sprain today, there are high chances of having similar problem in future. Some of the causes of twisted ankle are putting on high heels (causes pain in heel of foot), sports, walking or running on rugged ground or it can be due to previous injury. There are three grades of ankle sprain. The most serious one is the grade whereby the ligament rupture.


This may be accompanied by popping sounds and one may completely fail to walk on the affected foot.


Treatments for ankle sprain will vary depending on the severity of the pain. You should understand that, most of the ankle sprain treatments are aimed at reducing bleeding, swelling, and the resultant pain around the ligaments. They include the following:

  • Protecting your ankle from further injury may be the first great idea so far. In severe cases, this can be achieved by the use of support bandage or ankle brace.
  • Have a rest to enhance the healing process
  • You can as well apply ice as well as cold compresses.
  • Reduce the swelling by elevating the affected foot higher than the level of your heart.
  • Another good remedy for ankle sprain is exercise and you must proceed in this with moderations. Do not over-exercise.
  • Medications is also another remedy we cannot forget to mention. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories can be used to reduce inflammation. Your doctor can also resort to apply physiotherapy or surgery. He can also recommend proper footwear is he thinks that could be the reason for the pain.

Foot Bunions

Foot bunion can lead to inner side of foot pain
Foot bunion can lead to inner side of foot pain

Bunions or hallux valgus is a usual problem that leads to pain on side of foot by the big toe. Bunions are formed when the big toe rotates inwards. This will make it point inwards and cause the base bone at the big toe to stick outside.

Tailor bunion
Tailor bunion

Sometimes bunions can also occur around the little toe, this condition is called bunionettes. The occurrence of bunions can be influenced by genetics, scanty footwear, gout, and rheumatoid.


The common symptoms of bunions are big toe pain, redness, inflammation and swelling around the big toe.


In less serious cases of bunions, toe can be easily realigned using toe stretchers, but when the condition is very serious then surgery may be needed.  Actually, bunion treatment will depend on the primary causes.


This is a condition known to trigger inflammation in the joints. Two types of arthritis rheumatoid (inflammatory arthritis) and osteoarthritis (degenerative arthritis) that are known to trigger pain anywhere in the foot more so pain on side of foot.  The common cause of foot pain of the two is rheumatoid arthritis.

pain on the side of foot due to arthritis
pain on the side of foot due to arthritis


Common symptoms of arthritis include stiffness in the joint (ankle), swelling, tenderness, redness as well as joint pain.


Treatments include medications involving the application acetaminophen and non-steroids anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen. Severe cases of arthritis may require surgery.

Stress Fractures

Stress fractures foot problems occurs when minor break presents in one of the foot bones. Regular heavy sporting activities such as gymnastics, basketball, football or tennis can causes a lot stress to foot bones. Such stress fracture can be minor but can as well be very painful to bear. It can cause pain anywhere on foot side or even bottom of foot pain.

Stress structure on side of foot
Stress structure on side of foot

Various effective therapies that can be employed to quickly eliminate this problem but remember if left untreated; it can be very severe leading to recurrent foot pain. Such stress are known to affect the heels, metatarsal, navicular and fibula. Metatarsal stress fracture is the most common of all. The occurrence of stress fracture can be determined by these factors: gender, age, foot abnormality, wrong footwear, rugged surface, osteoporosis as well as previous stress fracture.


Below are the most common symptoms of stress fracture of the foot:

  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Tenderness


Treatment options for stress fracture include resting, ice therapy, foot elevation, using foot braces and crutches. Some drugs such as paracetamol or Tylenol can also be used to relieve pain. In severe cases, surgery may be recommended.

Cuboid Syndrome/Cuboid subluxation

Cuboid Syndrome or Cuboid subluxation
Cuboid Syndrome or Cuboid subluxation

This condition result from foot injury, repetitive strain and alteration in foot biomechanics. Cuboid is a small bone outside the midfoot that attaches to the calcaneus ligaments and joint capsule to form calcaneocuboid joint. Cuboid bone can move out of its usual position due to damaged tissue caused by foot trauma. Other names used to refer to this condition are blocked cuboid, dropped cuboid, fault syndrome as well as lateral plantar neuritis


Cuboid syndrome usually presents alongside pain down the outside of the foot and it can cut across foot ankles and toes. The pain can also be aggravated by activities such as swift direction change, jumping, hopping or running on uneven ground. The foot may generally feel weak and one may have problem during walking.


Manipulation is the most often used way where there may be need to relocate the bone back to its usual position. Other treatments may include

  • Taping the foot to provide support and stability to hold the cuboid in place.
  • Ice therapy to reduce pain and inflammation
  • Make you sure you rest from the worsening activities
  • Participate in pain-free strengthening and stretching exercise
  • Cuboid wedge and orthotic insoles may also be used

Foot corns and calluses

Foot corns and calluses
Foot corns and calluses

There can also be foot side pain because of corns and calluses growth. Such corns and calluses can sprung up anywhere in your foot but are commonly experienced on the top and the lateral side of foot. The foot corns are extremely painful and occur deeper while the calluses are usually painless. The main trigger here is repetitive stress on a section of foot skin hence protective layers growing to protect it. Contributing factors include scanty footwear, altered foot shape, ageing and standing for long. This condition is more prevalent in women than men are. Apart from Corns and calluses causing side foot pain, they can also causes both foot pain on top of foot and bottom of foot pain.


The most common and easy-to-notice is a hardened skin bump that can occur on the foot side or anywhere else. The bumps can be painful and itchy.


  • Gently rub away areas of hardened skin using pumice stone
  • Select proper footwear and use shoe insert if there need be
  • Get creams fashioned to rehydrate thick, dry skin
  • Consult trained personnel to trim down your corns and calluses
  • Salicylic acid can also be used to break down the hard skin and the soften it.
  • Antibiotics especially topical ones can apply applied around foot corns to prevent bacterial infections
  • In severe cases such as recurrent helomas caused by foot abnormalities then your doctor may recommend surgery

Tarsal coalition

This condition can lead to side of foot pain but in rarer circumstances. It show up when two or more bones become connected to each other by excess bar of bone. You must understand this congenital problem clearly.

Tarsal coalition - a possible cause of pain on side of foot
Tarsal coalition – a possible cause of pain on side of foot


This condition has sudden symptoms than lead to foot pain, fatigue and foot cramps. The symptoms will be evident when the victims walk abnormally.


The treatments usually include shoe inserts, exercise, and casting to mobilize your foot. Surgery can also apply in rare and severe cases.

Diagnosis of Pain on side of foot

During diagnosis of your foot pain, your doctor may ask you question about whether the onset of the pain was sudden or gradual. He/she may also determine your age to try to find out whether it is tarsal coalition, a common condition among youths. Persons aged above 50 are likely to suffer bunions or arthritis. When a person is having a dry and thickened skin accompanying pain on side of your foot, then he/she is likely to suffer corns and calluses. On the other side, pain developing because of injury can often be diagnosed to be cuboid subluxation or ligament sprain. Tendinitis or stress fracture are known to develop alongside gradual pain. Right and proper diagnosis is very important since it will define the best treatment for your foot pain. That is why most of the time, the doctor who should carry out the diagnosis.

How to Prevent Pain on side of foot

how to deal with pain on the side of foot
how to deal with pain on the side of foot

It should be clear that, not all causes of foot can be avoided, but some we can prevent. Some foot pain causes e.g. corns and calluses and ankle sprain can be recurrent if not properly addressed. Therefore, there are numerous things that can be done to prevent these causes from occurring or reoccurring. Here are the wonderful tips:

  • Always keep your feet clean by washing them daily especially the area between your toes
  • Try to lose weight if you are overweight. This will limit the pressure exerted on your feet.
  • Always wear clean socks and changes them if you feel they begin to be sweaty
  • Usually get rid of helomas areas of thickened skin by scrubbing your feet using pumice stone
  • Moisturize your heels and the ball of your foot to prevent or to reduce ball of foot pain. This should not be done to the area between your feet!
  • Wear proper shoes: good-fitting, soft, supportive and low heeled
  • Make sure you go for regular foot check-ups
  • Make sure you get involved in daily exercise but don’t overdo it!
  • Opt for well-balanced diet

In summary, we have to bear in mind that foot pain is very prevalent among many people, from male to female, adult to children. Some causes or rather symptoms may be mild while others may be very severe. Therefore, the best way out is to make sure you go proper diagnosis by a medical professional. Some symptoms may be treated at home but in severe cases or in case your foot pain is chronic, please make sure your doctor is aware.

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Our List of Reference

  1. Pain On Outside Of Foot: http://www.foot-pain-explored.com/pain-on-outside-of-foot.html
  2. Foot Pain on the Sides of foot: http://www.spinehealth.com/forum/discussion/10604/conditions/fibromyalgia/foot-pain-sides-foot
  3. Lateral Foot Pain or Pain on the outer side of the foot: https://www.epainassist.com/joint-pain/foot-pain/lateral-foot-pain
  4. Foot Pain: http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/guide/foot-pain-causes-and-treatments#1
  5. Foot pain: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/foot-pain/pages/introduction.aspx


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