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What Is Lateral Foot Pain? Causes and Treatments.

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Lateral foot pain is characterized by pain on the outer side of the ankle. Some common symptoms that may also occur with lateral foot pain are inflammation, numbness or tingling, stiffness, bruising, difficulty walking, or weakness in the feet, all of which increase the risk of falling.

Lateral foot pain can even affect sleep, especially while attempting to sleep on the affected side. The symptoms of lateral foot pain can range from mild to severe, depending on the underlying cause of the lateral foot pain.

There are many causes of lateral foot pain, each requiring different treatment plans. Although many treatments will be generally universal, it is suggested to see a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and prompt treatment.

What is Lateral Foot Pain?

Lateral foot pain refers to pain on the foot’s outer side. This type of pain is felt in the area between the ankle and the fifth (pinky) toe. The pain can range from a dull ache to a sharp, stabbing sensation, and it can be accompanied by other symptoms such as swelling, redness, and tenderness.

There are several potential causes of lateral foot pain, including injuries, overuse, certain medical conditions, and underlying structural problems. Some common causes of lateral foot pain include peroneal tendonitis, stress fractures, ankle sprains, and Morton’s neuroma.

See a doctor if you’re experiencing lateral foot pain, as they can help determine the underlying cause and develop a treatment plan specific to your needs. Treatment may involve rest, physical therapy, medications, or in some cases, surgery.

What Causes Lateral Foot Pain?

A sharp ache or burning sensation on the outer side of your foot can significantly impact your mobility. This lateral foot pain can have various origins, ranging from overuse to underlying conditions. Here's a breakdown of some common culprits:

  • Overuse Injuries: Athletes and individuals who participate in activities that demand repetitive movements on the outside of the foot, like running or jumping, are prone to overuse injuries. These can include stress fractures in the metatarsals (long bones in the forefoot) or peroneal tendonitis, an inflammation of the tendons that run along the outer ankle.

  • Improper Footwear: Shoes that lack adequate support or stability can contribute to lateral foot pain. Worn-out shoes or those with insufficient arch support can cause your foot to roll inwards excessively (overpronation), putting undue stress on the outer aspect of your foot.

  • Acute Injuries: A sudden misstep or forceful twist can cause a sprain or strain in the ligaments or muscles on the outside of your foot. These injuries are often accompanied by swelling, bruising, and difficulty bearing weight.

  • Arthritis: Degenerative joint conditions like osteoarthritis can affect the joints in the midfoot and ankle, leading to pain and stiffness that can manifest on the outer side of the foot.

  • Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome: This condition arises from compression of the tibial nerve that runs along the inner ankle and branches out to the bottom of the foot. Symptoms can include burning pain, numbness, and tingling on the outer side of the foot.

It's important to note that this list isn't exhaustive. If you're experiencing persistent lateral foot pain, consulting a podiatrist is crucial for an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plan. They can assess your foot mechanics, gait, and any potential underlying conditions to determine the cause of your pain and recommend the most effective course of action.

causes of lateral foot pain

How Does Lateral Foot Pain Feel?

Sensations associated with lateral foot pain can vary in intensity and duration and may be accompanied by other symptoms such as swelling, redness, and tenderness. The exact sensation can vary depending on the underlying cause of the pain, but it may be exacerbated by activities such as walking, running, or standing for long periods.

Patients with lateral foot pain may describe the sensation as anything from dull and aching, to shooting or stabbing, to the area being completely numb or tingling.

For example, a lateral ligament injury of the ankle typically causes a sharp or sudden pain along the outer side of the ankle at the time of the injury. This pain may be accompanied by a “popping” or “snapping” sensation.

The pain may be severe, making it difficult to bear weight on the affected foot. In some cases, there may also be swelling and tenderness in the affected area. The pain may persist and become more of a dull ache as the inflammation and swelling subside.

How Can Custom Orthotics Help Relieve Lateral Foot Pain?

Custom orthotics can help relieve lateral foot pain by providing support to the foot and reducing pressure on the affected area. They redistribute pressure, reducing pain and helping to prevent further injury.

Custom orthotics stabilize and reduce the risk of ankle sprains or other damage. They can also help correct any structural abnormalities in the foot, such as flat feet or high arches, that may contribute to lateral foot pain.

Custom orthotics can help absorb shock when walking or running, reducing foot stress and the risk of injury. Since custom orthotics are made to fit the unique shape and needs of an individual’s feet, they can provide more effective and targeted support than over-the-counter orthotics.

Custom Orthotics for Lateral Foot Pain

What are Some Other Treatments for Lateral Foot Pain?

In addition to custom orthotics, several other treatments can help relieve lateral foot pain, including:

  • Physical therapy: Physical therapy can help improve strength, flexibility, and stability in the foot and ankle, reducing the risk of injury and relieving pain.

  • Pain medication: Over-the-counter pain medication, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can help relieve pain and reduce inflammation.

  • Rest and ice: Resting the affected foot and applying ice can help reduce swelling and relieve pain.

  • Bracing: A brace or ankle support can help provide stability and support to the affected foot, reducing the risk of injury and relieving pain.

  • Stretching and strengthening exercises: Stretching and strengthening exercises can help improve flexibility, stability, and strength in the foot and ankle, reducing the risk of injury and relieving pain.

  • Massage therapy: Massage therapy can help improve circulation, reduce tension and stress in the affected area, and relieve pain.

  • Injections: In some cases, a doctor may recommend an injection of cortisone or other pain-relieving medication to help relieve pain.

  • Surgery: In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to address any underlying structural issues or to repair damaged tissues.

It’s important to see a doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan, as the most effective treatment will depend on the underlying cause of your lateral foot pain. Your doctor can help determine the best course of action, which may involve a combination of these treatments.

Bilt Labs Custom Orthotics

Lateral foot pain can significantly disrupt your daily activities, making even simple tasks like walking uncomfortable. While the source of this pain can vary, Bilt Labs custom orthotics offer a personalized solution that can address a wide range of causes and provide targeted relief. Here's how these custom inserts can help you step out of lateral foot pain:

Addressing Biomechanical Issues: Bilt Labs orthotics go beyond simple cushioning. Through a meticulous fitting process, they assess your foot mechanics and identify any imbalances that might be contributing to your lateral pain. Common culprits like overpronation, where the foot rolls inward excessively, can place undue stress on the outer aspect of your foot. Bilt Labs orthotics incorporate features like medial posting to correct these imbalances, promoting proper alignment and reducing strain on the outer structures of your foot.

Targeted Pressure Relief and Support: Unlike generic inserts, Bilt Labs orthotics are custom-molded to your feet. This ensures a perfect fit that provides targeted support and pressure relief exactly where you need it most. For lateral foot pain, this might involve strategically placed cushioning under the outer forefoot or arch area. This targeted approach reduces the stress on the affected structures, promoting healing and minimizing pain with each step.

Stability and Shock Absorption: Bilt Labs orthotics are crafted from high-quality materials that provide superior support and shock absorption. This not only reduces discomfort caused by lateral foot pain but also enhances overall foot stability. Whether you're walking, running, or participating in activities that put stress on the outside of your foot, the custom design helps distribute pressure more evenly, minimizing the risk of future injuries.

By addressing the underlying biomechanics, providing targeted support, and promoting stability, Bilt Labs custom orthotics can offer significant relief for various causes of lateral foot pain. Remember, consulting a podiatrist for a diagnosis is crucial to determine the best course of action for your specific situation. But if you're struggling with pain on the outer side of your foot, Bilt Labs custom orthotics can be a valuable tool on your journey towards a pain-free and active lifestyle.

Bilt Labs Custom Orthotics


While lateral foot pain can significantly impact your mobility, there's hope! By understanding the potential causes and exploring treatment options like custom orthotics, stretching, and proper footwear, you can take control of your foot health. Remember, consulting a podiatrist for a diagnosis and personalized treatment plan is crucial for a successful recovery. With the right approach, you can ditch the discomfort and get back to enjoying life on your feet, pain-free. Take our free quiz today to find out which orthotic type is best for your feet.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult with a qualified healthcare professional before making any decisions about your health. If you have any questions about your health or are experiencing any medical problems, please contact your doctor or other healthcare provider immediately. Do not delay seeking medical attention based on the information provided in this article.