Lateral Foot Pain: Why the Side of Your Foot Hurts and How to Cure It

Lateral foot pain may signal either an acute or chronic condition. There are many conditions that can cause lateral foot pain (side of foot pain) and it’s unlikely that you will be able to diagnose the problem yourself.

To ensure you don’t have a serious problem, see a specialist for a diagnosis.

Possible Causes of Lateral Foot Pain

Stress Fractures

Very small cracks in the bone can occur from repetitive force (such as running or jumping). Also called overuse injury, the most common symptom is pain that occurs or becomes worse with use.

Stress fractures may improve slightly with rest. X-rays can’t always capture very small cracks in a stress fracture, so an MRI may be a better choice.


An ankle sprain may cause lateral foot pain and in fact is one of the most common reasons for this condition.

Common symptoms include pain, swelling, bruising and instability of the ankle. RICE – rest, ice, compression and elevation will often allow the condition to heal completely.

Cuboid Syndrome

The cuboid is one of the seven tarsal bones in the foot. Excessive traction on the bone can cause it to become dislocated, causing side of foot pain.

Cuboid syndrome may affect the stability of the ankle, increasing the risk of further injury.

Peroneal tendonitis

This condition results from excessive tension on the peroneal tendon, which runs on the outside of the ankle between the calf and heel.

It is usually related to overuse. If not treated, it can cause degeneration of the tendon.

Corns and Calluses

Side of foot pain may be due to a corn or callus, as both often occur on the lateral side of the foot.

Calluses, however, are less likely to be painful, so the chances of a corn are much higher. Both occur because of constant pressure on the side of the foot, usually from improper footwear.


A bunion is typically located near the big toe and results because the toe has rotated inward.

In addition to redness, swelling and inflammation of the toe, a bunion can cause pain along the side of the foot.


Arthritis can affect any area of the musculoskeletal system. Inflammatory arthritis (rheumatoid arthritis is a good example) and osteoarthritis (the kind that occurs from degenerated cartilage as people grow older) can both be painful.

However, Rheumatoid arthritis is more likely to cause pain along the side of the foot.

Diagnosis of Injury or Ailment Causing Side of Foot Pain

The diagnosis of any foot pain begins with a symptom review and physical examination.

The doctor may ask you to walk or may move your foot into certain positions. X-rays, MRIs and bone scans may all be used to determine exactly what the source of the pain is – each has advantages and disadvantages.

In some cases, more than one imaging study will be required.

Treatments for Lateral Foot Pain

In many cases, the first step in treating lateral foot pain is rest. It may take the form of staying off the foot entirely.

You may need to use crutches or some sort of immobilizing device, such as a brace or cast, to keep the foot from moving and causing more damage.

Medications, which may be prescription or over-the-counter, can be helpful in relieving pain and inflammation. Some patients find the application of ice helpful, especially in acute pain situations.

Other possible treatments include laser therapy, electrical stimulation and in rare cases, surgery.

Exercise to help strengthen and stretch muscles is usually recommended once the acute phase passes. You can prevent further problems by wearing proper shoes. You may need to modify your exercise routine.