Lateral foot pain or outer foot pain: 7 Causes, Diagnosis, 5 Treatments

The revered artist, Leonardo Da Vinci beautifully depicts the importance of the foot, mastered in the art with a saying, “The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art!” Foot carries us everywhere. It supports us in each step taken in our life. It let us explore this wondrous world.

Many times, foot pain causes some restriction. It can be mild or severe. The intensity of the pain in the foot causes immobility. You may experience pain in any part of the foot. It can be inner foot pain, medial foot pain or pain on outer foot.

While foot pain is common, many people also experience lateral foot pain. The pain that occurs on the outer side of the foot is called lateral foot pain. It may arise gradually or maybe a sudden onset or may be due to an injury in foot or legs.

In many instances, pain on outside of foot is a sign of an underlying foot problem. Let us see the causes, diagnosis, and treatment of lateral foot pain or outer foot pain.

What is Lateral Foot Pain?

lateral foot pain
Lateral foot pain
Image source: lifeafter50.ie

Lateral foot pain indicates pain that runs on the outside of the foot. It also includes ankle. You may experience the pain during or after any activity like walking, jogging, or running. You can ignore lateral foot pain. It makes moving around difficult. Severe pain on outer side of foot also prohibits from taking a few steps or even stand.

It causes various symptoms, based on the part of the foot that is affected. Some of the common symptoms of the lateral foot pain include:

  • Pain on the outer side of foot
  • Pain on the outer side of an ankle
  • Lack of stability in the foot
  • Tenderness
  • Swelling
  • Difficulty in balancing and standing
  • Pain during walking
  • Prone to sprains in the ankle
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Lateral foot pain is not a disease, but a symptom or sign of foot problem.

What Causes Outer Foot Pain?

Take a brief look at the common causes of the lateral foot pain, along with the signs and symptoms of each condition.

Some of the common causes of outer foot pain include the following.

  • Overuse of foot
  • Strain and sprain
  • Not having enough rest between exercise sessions
  • Not having enough rest after an injury
  • Medical conditions
Stress Fracture:

A stress fracture refers to small cracks in the bone. It is also called hairline fracture. The cracks are too small and thin like a hair strand. Overuse of bones or repetitive motions causes the stress fracture.

A stress fracture is different from the typical fractures you encounter. Normal fractures are caused a single injury. On the contrary, a stress fracture is caused by pressure. Rigorous exercises, sports practices or any intense workout that hits your feet on the ground continually cause a stress fracture.  Lateral foot pain is widespread in stress fractures.

Symptoms of the stress fracture include:
  • Pain on outer side of foot
  • Pain due to foot pressure
  • Pain during activity
How to prevent stress fracture:
  • Do not ignore warm-up exercises
  • Reduce the intensity of the workouts, sports, and physical activities
  • Wear comfortable shoes that don’t cause pain and gives excellent support
Cuboid Syndrome:

Cuboid refers to a small cube-shaped bone located on the outer edge of the foot. It is placed in the middle part of the lateral foot. So, it gives stability by connecting the ankle and foot. Dislocation of the bone, damage or injury to this bone or ligaments around this bone causes the cuboid syndrome.

Symptoms of the cuboid syndrome include:
  • Lateral foot pain in the affected leg
  • Tenderness of the foot
  • Weakness in the foot edge
  • Unable to move or walk with the pain

Lateral foot pain of cuboid syndrome tends to be remarkably sharper when you walk or twist the feet. The pain on side of foot spread all along. Pain doesn’t subside even when you sit or take rest.  Overuse of foot is a condition that triggers the cuboid syndrome.

Twisted Ankle:

An inversion sprain is referred as a twisted ankle. Twisting your ankle is very common. It happens when you roll the foot under the ankle. Sometimes, the outer pain foot caused by twisted ankle may stretch to ligaments and even tear it.

Ankle-twisting is very common during sports or physical activities like walking and running. Sometimes, the structure of the feet may cause ankle twist.

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If you walk on the outer edge of your feet, you are more likely to develop lateral foot pain caused by a twisted ankle. History of ankle injury also creates ankle twist, which causes outer foot pain.

Symptoms of ankle twist include swelling, tenderness, pain, and bruises around your ankle.

Peroneal Tendonitis:

If you experience the pain on outer side of foot around the heel, the likely cause may be peroneal tendonitis. Due to constant pressure on the heel area, around the peroneal tendons, it causes inflammation and degeneration of the tendons in the foot.

The pain gradually increases. Outer foot pain could be worse when you wake up and can improve with rest.

Bunions:

It is a deformity of the foot, causing moderate to severe outer foot pain. The side of foot hurts when the big toe of your foot rotate inwards.

It makes the big toe sticking out of the lateral foot. Eventually, it causes inflammation, and redness around the toe. Poor footwear, genetic factors, and weak joints trigger bunions.

Warmness and crackling sound in the lateral foot area are the two major symptoms of bunions.

Arthritis:

Arthritis is one of the primary causes of lateral foot pain. Arthritis affects the bones and joints. It can be an inflammatory condition or degenerative condition. The former is called Rheumatism and later is osteoarthritis. In many cases, rheumatism causes severe pain on outside of foot.

Redness, stiffness, swelling and throbbing pain are the common symptoms of lateral foot pain caused by arthritis.

Skin irritation:

In a rare scenario, irritation of the skin on foot also causes lateral foot pain.

How Pain on side of foot is diagnosed?

Pain on outside of foot is often diagnosed by physical examination of the foot, and by tests. So, when you see above, foot pain side of foot is caused by some factors. If the pain sustains, it may lead to ligament tear or severe injury. While lateral foot pain is common in ankle twist, stress fracture, or mere overuse of foot, it may aggravate.

The physician examines your foot for sprains or injuries. The physicians may ask you to do some activities and leg movements, to assess the foot condition. It includes weight-bearing activities, foot stretch, and rotation, etc. It is followed by X-ray or MRI CT scans to check the foot condition. Based on the reports, further treatment is prescribed.

If the side of foot hurts even after a few days, do not hesitate to visit a physician.

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Treatment for Lateral Foot Pain:

Treatment for lateral foot pain is decided according to the reasons and intensity of the discomfort. Following are the common treatment options that improve lateral foot pain.

RICE:

Regardless of the type and causes of the pain, a few things help improving the pain. You can quickly reduce the outer foot pain with this simple RICE method.

  • Resting your foot
  • Ice packs for two or three times a day
  • Compressing the foot
  • Elevate your foot
Medications for Lateral Foot Pain:

In most cases, medicines help in pain relief. Physicians may prescribe painkillers to reduce the pain of outer side of the foot. In case of long-term pain, you can take anti-inflammatory medicines to ease away the inflammation and discomfort or pain. It gives instant relief from outer side foot pain.

Physical Therapy for Outer Foot Pain:

Sometimes, medications work only for a stipulated period. The pain may be recurrent. In such conditions, physical therapy becomes a necessity.

Alternative Therapies for Pain on Outer Side of Foot:

When the lateral foot pain associated with any injury, adjuvant therapies are insisted, for pain reduction and quick healing.

  • It includes laser therapy, massage, electric stimulation, and acupuncture.
  • On rarest occasions, surgery is recommended.
NSAIDS and Steroids:

When arthritis is the major cause of outer foot pain, corticosteroid injections as well as NSAIDs help inflammation and reduces pain.

General Tips to Reduce Lateral Foot Pain:

  • Lateral foot pain is widespread in athletes and people who are active in sports. Sports people should wear gears and supportive footwear during practice and games.
  • Rest is the primary remedy to reduce lateral foot pain.
  • If you feel pain on outer side of foot, try to get rest for few days.
  • Wear comfortable footwear that supports your foot.
  • Heat and cold compression treat the pain and swelling.
  • Stretching and rotation of foot for 3 to 5 minutes a day make it flexible and stronger.
  • A barefoot walk on grass or soft roads helps to reduce the lateral foot pain.

In many cases, lateral foot pain results from underlying conditions. It may worsen over time when you don’t treat at the right time. You can easily prevent outer foot pain by precautionary measures.

References:
  1. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321176.php
  2. https://www.healthline.com/health/lateral-foot-pain
  3. https://www.runnersworld.com/ask-the-doctor/ask-the-doctor-pain-along-outside-of-foot
  4. https://www.livestrong.com/article/253981-what-are-the-causes-of-lateral-foot-pain/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25391092 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28042751
  6. https://www.epainassist.com/joint-pain/foot-pain/lateral-foot-pain

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