What causes pain in the side of the foot?

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If you suffer from pain in the side of the foot, everyday activities can become unbearable. But with the right diagnosis and treatment, you typically can resume your normal life within a few weeks. Causes range from improper footwear to underlying medical conditions like diabetes and arthritis.


In general, the problem is characterised by dull, aching or sharp pain that radiates from the heel along the side of the foot. The pain intensifies as you perform everyday activities. You may find walking, or otherwise applying pressure to this area, uncomfortable and even unbearable. The pain may feel worse at particular points during the day. Depending on your sleeping position, you may feel the pain at night as well.

Improper Footwear

The most common cause stems from footwear. Your shoes, for example, may be too tight to allow your toes to spread out evenly. You may overuse certain shoes, such as high heels, that strain particular muscles in the foot. Buy footwear that provides ample arch support and sufficient room for your feet to move.

Achilles Tendon Injury

As the largest tendon in the body, the Achilles is a common site of injury. Although the tendon is located primarily in the heel, it lies alongside the muscles on the side of the foot. Tendon injuries could could trigger pain that radiates along the side of the foot. The condition may subside with rest and massage; more serious cases require physical therapy or strengthening exercises. Consult with a doctor if the pain fails to let up.

Medical Conditions

Pain in the side of the foot may also be a result of an underlying medical condition, including diabetes and arthritis. Most patients suffering from diabetes experience diabetic nerve pain at least once in their life; depending on the affected nerve, symptoms may include pain and numbness in the extremities. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis often cause pain in the joints, including the ankle or knee. In such cases, patients may compensate by walking differently and perhaps strain muscles in the side of the foot. Rheumatoid arthritis is three times more common in women than in men, and symptoms generally occur after age 50.

Additional Causes

The foot is composed of 33 joints, 26 bones and hundreds of nerves, ligaments and muscles, so diagnosing the cause of foot pain is often very complicated. Repetitive activities, including jumping, running or kicking, constantly stress particular areas, which could lead to severe pain along the side of the foot or the base of the heel. Unrelenting pain could also be the result of an undiagnosed bone fracture.


Contact a doctor if the pain does not subside within a week. If your physician is unable to diagnosis the condition, you may be referred to a podiatrist. In most cases, the pain will dissipate with rest, but sometimes physical therapy or even surgery may be necessary.