Question: What causes pain on outside of foot when walking or running?
Foot injuries are quite common in the United States affecting about 6 percent of adults. If you have foot pain, its normal you will be worried because walking and running will come with difficulty.
One common type of foot pain you may experience is outer foot pain. This pain is felt on the lateral side of the foot.
Pain on outside of foot happens mainly because of a stress fracture. In simple terms, a stress fracture means the small bones that make up your foot breaks opens and continues to cause pain while walking, running, dancing, or jumping.
Stress fracture can occur at any part of the foot. When bones on the lateral aspect of the foot is affected, you will feel pain on the outside of the foot.
Other serious causes of lateral foot pain are
- Ankle Sprain
- Cuboid syndrome
- Inflammation of the peroneal tendon
- Tarsal coalition
- Corns affecting the outer edges of your foot
If you’ve observed severe pain at your foot area, it is beneficial to talk to your doctor. At the moment, while at home, resting your foot is a priority to avoid even more damage to your foot bones.
When to see a doctor?
Having mild pain on the outside is usually not a serious concern. However, increasing pain that is lasting for days, weeks or months is likely due to serious medical issues. Here are some questions to expect during clinic visit
- When did pain on the outside of foot start?
- Do you have swelling of the affected foot?
- Do you have pain in one foot or both feet?
- Does pain worsen while running, walking, or jumping?
- Does foot pain subside after taking a rest?
- Do you use tight-fitting shoes while running?
- Any previous injury or twisting of your ankle or foot?
This article explains the causes of pain on the outside of the foot, causes, and available treatment options.
What causes pain on outside of foot?
1. Stress fracture
Stress fracture is a common cause of pain on the outside of the foot. It happens when one or more bones in your foot breaks due to overuse. It is more common in athletes, runners, footballers, basketballers, and tennis players.
Usually, the bone in the foot area undergoes continuous changes. New cells are regularly produced to replace dead bone cells. During normal activities, bone changes are not evident because dead bone cells are quickly replaced.
However, during overuse of your foot bones, dead cells are not replaced on time resulting in a break in your bone called a fracture.
The truth is, aside the foot, a stress fracture can happen in other parts of the body. The sacrum, neck of the femur bone, fibular, and tibia are areas where stress fracture can occur.
In the foot, the most commonly affected bones are metatarsals, navicular, and calcaneum.
What causes a stress fracture?
A stress fracture happens because of overuse of your ankle and foot. It is common in men and women who are involved with sports. During sporting activities, repetitive use of your foot bone increases the risk of a stress fracture occurring.
Also, being obese and tall stature may put you at risk of a stress fracture. In women who use high heels for long period, there is a chance of fracture in your distal foot bones.
What are the symptoms of a stress fracture?
Stress fracture may at first be tricky to diagnose and may begin as mild foot pain. In fact, a quick x-ray of your foot will not reveal any abnormal signs. Here are some symptoms of a stress fracture
- Mild, moderate or severe pain on the foot that is aggravated by movement and relieved by rest. Foot pain worse at night is a common complaint
- Increased pain around the fractured bone when tension is put on your foot
- Swelling of the affected foot
- In severe cases, difficulty in walking or running
How can stress fracture be treated?
Most times, a stress fracture heals on its own. This is through use of the RICE therapy that involves resting your foot, ice, compressing bandages, and foot elevation. An Xray, MRI, or CT scan is helpful for making a diagnosis.
In most cases, a stress fracture heals within 12 weeks, and no further treatment will be needed. However, surgery will be advised if bones are displaced and healing difficult to achieve.
2. Ankle Sprain
Your ankle connects your lower legs with your foot and is critically needed for movement. The ankle joint is primarily made up of the talus, fibular and tibia bones that are supported on each side by the medial and lateral ligaments.
These ligaments can get inflamed or torn during swift movement of your foot inwardly or outwardly. Most commonly affected is the lateral ligament when the foot is unexpectedly turned inwards (inversion) and causes a sprain or tear of your ligaments.
If this happens, you will experience mild or severe pain on the outside of foot depending on the severity of the injury.
What causes ankle sprain to occur?
An ankle sprain occurs when direct trauma hurts your foot. This can happen from
- Running on an uneven surface which could twist your ankles
- Direct ankle trauma during sports (football, basketball or tennis)
- Coming down from a moving vehicle
What are the symptoms of an ankle sprain?
- Ankle swelling on the outer side of the foot
- Side of foot pain
- Difficulty in walking, standing or running on the injured ankle
What to do for an ankle sprain?
An ankle sprain can be cared for by resting your tender swollen foot, making use of ice, elevation of the foot and use of bandage.
Also, painkillers will be needed to soothe your pain quickly. Ibuprofen, Naproxen, and Acetaminophen are available options to try.
3. Cuboid syndrome
Another cause of pain on outside of the foot is a cuboid syndrome. Cuboid syndrome mean injury to the calcaneocuboid joint and its ligament.
During repetitive injury to the cuboid bone, you can have pain on the outside of the foot. Other causes are obesity, poorly healed ankle sprain, running on an uneven surface, and the use of tightly fitted footwear.
What are the symptoms of cuboid syndrome?
- Pain on the outside of the foot
- Generalised foot pain that is worse over the cuboid bone and radiating to the small toes (4th and 5th metatarsals)
- Abnormal movement
How is cuboid syndrome treated?
If you have pain in the middle outer foot that is radiating to your distal foot, it’s possible you have cuboid syndrome. Treatment involves the use of reductive manipulation.
4. Peroneal tendon inflammation
Outer foot pain can result from peroneal tendonitis which is the inflammation of the peroneal tendon. The peroneal tendon runs from the lower foot, moves under the lateral malleolus (prominence on the outside of foot) and attaches to the midfoot and inner side of the arch.
Peroneal tendonitis happens through repetitive injury to your ankle and foot. This can happen among athletes. Symptoms include swelling on the outer part of the foot, pain, and difficulty in walking.
Treatment is quite conservative, and it involves immobilization of the affected ankle and foot. Use of ice, resting your foot, bracing, and use of painkiller will help with pain.
Rheumatoid and osteoarthritis can happen in almost any joint in your body. If it affects the ankle joint, side of foot pain is not unexpected. You may also experience pain at the top of the foot.
Inform your doctor for help
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What causes pain on outside of foot near little toes?
If you have pain on the side of foot near little toes, it could be due to Arthritis, cuboid syndrome, or a stress fracture.
Cuboid syndrome causes pain on the upper outer part side of the foot that is aggravated by pressure on the affected area. Cuboid syndrome pain is also felt around the little toes, between the 4th and 5th metatarsals.
Arthritis can cause pain on left or right side of the foot. If you are obese or more than 55 years, it’s likely foot pain could be arthritis. Otherwise, if you feel pain in multiple joints of your body, its likely to be Rheumatoid arthritis that occurs when your immune cells fight its own tissues.
A stress fracture usually happens at the second and third metatarsal bones. However, it could affect the lateral metatarsals.
What causes pain on outside of foot after running walking?
- Ankle Sprain
- Stress fracture
- Cuboid syndrome
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Peroneal tendon inflammation