Foot pain typically occurs in the ball, heel, or arch of the foot but it’s possible to feel discomfort along the length of the foot as well. Foot care is an often overlooked part of our general health and well-being but it shouldn’t be, especially for people suffering from diabetes, in which case, foot care becomes absolutely critical.
We’re generally hard on our feet; they get a lot of use and take a lot of abuse, so when something goes wrong or we experience discomfort it’s important to diagnose the problem correctly and take the necessary steps to ensure that our feet remain healthy.
Symptoms of Foot Trauma
While pain on the side of the foot may occur less frequently than pain on the bottom of the foot it can be debilitating when it does strike. Many people find it difficult to even walk until steps are taken to remedy their discomfort. This type of pain often worsens as the day progresses.
Frequent symptoms of pain on the side of the foot include:
• The feeling of being ‘bruised’ even though there are no visible signs of trauma.
• Experiencing a dull or aching pain along the length of the foot.
• Experiencing sharp or stabbing pains along the length of the foot when pressure is applied, such as when walking or climbing stairs.
Any type of pain felt in the feet should be thoroughly examined no matter how ‘minor’ it may seem. Our feet are crucial indicators of our overall health and can signal that they are deeper health issues, such as arthritis or diabetes.
Possible Causes of Pain on the Side of the Foot
Pain on the side of the foot is often caused by wearing ill-fitting shoes, shoes with little or no support, contact trauma, or carrying excessive weight. There are more serious issues that need to be ruled out, however, and persistent or acute foot pain should always be looked at by your doctor or podiatrist.
Here are common and possible causes for pain on the side of the foot:
• Stress Fracture: This type of injury can happen slowly and over time, so there won’t necessarily be an identifiable moment of trauma. Because this is a micro-fracture pain may not be experienced unless you are running or walking. If you feel pain when applying pressure to the bone on the outside of your foot you may have a fracture. You should cease all activities immediately and go to the doctor.
• Peroneal Tendonitis: Tendonitis on the outside of the foot means that the Peroneal tendon has become inflamed and is causing you grief. This is usually caused by acute or chronic overloading of one or both of the peroneal tendons.
• Contact Pressure: The outside of your shoe can rub against the bony area of your foot and cause irritation and pain. This is usually caused by improper or too-tight lacings on trainers, or by wearing ill-fitting shoes.
• Ill-Fitting Shoes: This is a common enough occurrence to warrant a category on its own. Wearing high heels can cause major discomfort and damage to the feet, and one of the biggest issues is the toes being forced into a narrow shoebox by a too-high heel.
• Achilles Tendon: An injury to the tendon at the back of the ankle causes pain to radiate along the side of the foot. It is one of the largest ligaments in the body and the part of the foot at greatest risk for injury.
• Arthritis: Arthritis is an inflammatory disease that can affect any joint in the body but the one most often associated with feet is gout, a painful condition that can be much improved through changes in the diet.
• Diabetes: Foot problems—especially serious ones that have gone unnoticed for an unusually long period of time, maybe indicative of this disease. If you notice that you have suffered foot trauma such as a fracture and did not feel pain it is crucial that you get checked for diabetes. It often happens that diabetics do not feel foot pain because of the nerve damage caused by this disease.
Because diabetics do not receive pain signals properly it’s important to check the feet regularly and look for the following conditions that may be causing unrecognized pain in the side of the feet:
• Blisters: Check all sides of the foot and between the toes very carefully.
• Bursitis: Check for red, inflamed skin and tender areas of skin.
• Ganglions: Ganglions are cysts that form in the soft tissue of the feet or wrists. Look for lumps filled with a solid, jelly-like substance; even if it doesn’t hurt it will need to be looked at.
• Tailors Bunion: This bunion is unusual in that it occurs on the little toe on the outside of the foot. Check for a hard knot of bone on the outside of the toe and bring it to your doctor’s attention at your next appointment.
Foot care should be a priority for everyone because a seemingly small problem can escalate into a bigger concern if proper care isn’t taken.
Non-Invasive Treatments for Minor Pain on the Side of the Foot
The following suggestions may help relieve minor foot pain, but if the pain persists or worsens then it’s definitely time to see your doctor:
• Ice: Ice is a wonderful anti-inflammatory. Make sure that you wrap your ice-pack (or bag of frozen vegetables) in a t-shirt or towels before you place it on your foot. Because the area that you’re icing is close to the surface of the skin 10 minutes of contact is sufficient. Try to elevate your feet afterward if possible.
• Epsom Salts: Soaking your feet in Epsom salts is a great way to reduce swelling and inflammation. Just fill a basin (or your tub) with enough warm water to submerge your feet then mix in handfuls of Epsom salts until they stop dissolving. When this happens your water is supersaturated and it will help to draw out the swelling. Try to soak your feet for a minimum of 20 minutes once daily.
• Anti-Inflammatories: Over-the-counter medication should be a last resort, and if the pain is bad enough to medicate yourself then you need to at least consider getting your foot checked. Advil and Ibuprofen are two popular choices but it’s imperative that you read the directions and warning.
Preventing Pain on the Side of the Foot
Preventing pain on the side of the foot is superior to dealing with a problem after it occurs. If you are diabetic or experiencing severe or chronic foot pain the best thing to do is get your feet checked by your doctor. It’s imperative that you rule out any serious or dangerous ailments.
If you are experiencing mild discomfort from time to time—or if you’re very wisely trying to avoid foot pain in the first place—the following tips are a great place to start:
• Invest in Good Shoes: Make sure your shoes have adequate cushioning and heel support; and make sure you replace them when they get worn out, especially your trainers. You might also want to look at the wear pattern on the sole of your shoes; if they are more worn out on the outside of the foot then you are over-supinating, which means that you tend to ‘roll out’ on your foot. Mention it to your doctor and keep an eye on the wear and tear on your shoes.
• Strengthen the Muscles in Your Feet: The stronger the muscle the less prone it is to injury. Stand on a low step with your heels hanging off the edge and hold the railing for support. Slowly lower heels as much as possible then bring them back to their original position. Then slowly raise yourself on tippy toes before returning to the original position. Do this exercise five or six times, once a day if you can, but if you’re experiencing any kind of foot pain be sure to check with your doctor first.
• Stretch Your Ankles and Calves: Any tightness in your calf muscles or Achilles tendon can translate into the pain in the side of the foot, so make sure you keep these muscles nice and loose by stretching them or by investing in a hand-held massager or foam roller.
We’ve covered an extensive list of possible causes of pain in the side of the foot, some of them serious and some that can be treated at home. Foot pain is a common affliction but we need to take care that we aren’t ignoring a more serious issue, and severe or chronic pain in the side of the feet should be taken very seriously and should be brought to the attention of a doctor immediately.