Outside Of Foot Pain
The outside side of the foot, also known as the lateral aspect of the foot, is the entire outer border of the foot i.e. the part of the foot that is furthest away from the mid-line of the body. This runs from the back of the heel, down the outside of the foot t the tip of the big toe (as shown in the image to the right).
There are numerous bones, joints and soft tissue attachments in this part of the foot and therefore there are a number of reasons why pain may be felt in this area. In this article I am going to discuss the possible causes of outside of foot pain to help you understand more about your symptoms and what you can do to resolve it.
Outside Of Foot Pain – The Causes
The main causes of outside of foot pain include:
5th Metatarsal Stress Fracture – the fifth metatarsal is the long bone that runs up the outside of the foot and due to its location and prominence is it liable to damage and possible injury. Repeated small traumas to the bone can result as a stress fracture developing – a small hairline crack in the bone. The most common cause of a stress fracture is excessive unaccustomed exercise, such as running for a long distance when you are not used to doing so.
Swelling and pain will be experienced in the region of the stress fracture and due to the location on the 5th metatarsal, walking may be very difficult. Rest is the best course of action for these injuries and providing adequate rest is given full resolution should occur within 6 weeks. Occasionally there are further complications with a stress fracture on the 5th metatarsal and if symptoms persist it would be wise to visit your physician for further advice.
Lateral Ankle Sprain – this is a tear or partial tear of one of the ligaments on the outside of the ankle. It is one of the most common types of outside of foot pain and also accounts for approximately 90% of all ankle sprains injuries. This type of sprain occurs when a forceful inversion motion occurs (going ‘over on the ankle’) that results in the ligaments stretching to the point of tear or partial tear.
The area will become inflamed and swollen and will be very painful, possibly limiting mobility and making walking impossible, depending on the severity. Ice therapy can be used to help reduce the inflammation in the area and anti-inflammatory medications may also be prescribed. Using ankle supports may also help in the rehabilitation process. It is wise to rest the area, elevate the foot when possible and perform circular movements with the ankle to ensure mobility is not lost in the ankle and this can also accelerate the recovery process.
Peroneal Tendinitis – the tendons of the peroneal muscles pass round the outside and underneath the ankle on the outside of the foot. One of the tendons enters the underside of the foot and the other joins to the base of the 5th metatarsal. If these tendons become over-used and over-strained, they can become damaged and this triggers the inflammatory process. This is often caused again by excessive unaccustomed exercise or during sporting activities that require lots of sudden changes in direction. Once this has become established, it can become very painful, particularly if activity is continued without adequate rest.
If the cause is activity related, the activity should be completely ceased until full resolution has occurred, following which very gradual return to activity should commence. Additionally, ice therapy and anti-inflammatory medications can be used to reduce the inflammation and rehabilitation should include an exercise program that focuses on improving balance and coordination in the lower limb to prevent recurrence of the condition.
Ganglion Cysts – these are small fluid filled sacs that may appear anywhere on the foot, but are more common overlying tendons or joints, usually on the top of the foot or outside of the foot. They can cause pain by causing pressure on the underlying structures, such as the nerves.
5th Toe Pain – the toe itself can also contribute to outside of foot pain and should not be overlooked as often this can cause considerable discomfort. Commonly, footwear that is too tight in the forefoot can result in compression and friction on the skin overlying the joints of the 5th toe. This can lead to callus or corn formation, and pain. High heeled shoes that elevate the heel and cause the forefoot to slide forward in an already compromised space are often the main culprits for this. Ensuring there is adequate width and depth in the toe box of the shoe will prevent this from occurring. It is also possible that a toe deformity is present in the 5th toe and if you suspect you have a deformity you should have this assessed by your Podiatrist.
These are among the most common causes of outside of foot pain. I hope you now have a better understanding of what is causing your foot pain and the best treatment options. If you are unsure about what is causing your pain I would advise visiting your Podiatrist or Physician.