Foot pain can seriously interfere with your day-to-day activities and tie you to the bed. Pain on the outside of the foot when walking may be the result of different underlying conditions.
Common Causes of pain on the outside of the foot when walking
An ache arising on the outside of the foot can vary in intensity based on the posture and movement. Such pain is usually felt on the outer edge of the foot.
Foot pain while walking can be attributed to multiple foot disorders:
Ankle injuries and sprains can trigger pain in the outside of your foot. Young athletic individuals in their teens are more prone to suffering from ankle twists during athletic activities. Every year around 2.15 per 1000 persons in the US report ankle sprain and foot pain.
A sprained ankle presents itself as pain, inflammation, and swelling on the ankle region and outside of the foot. Sports injury is a major cause of ankle pain during supination i.e. walking on the outer foot.
Peroneal tendonitis is an inflammatory condition of the peroneal tendons that are present between the lower leg, outer ankle, and the side of the foot (lateral foot).
The tendons function as stabilizers of the ankle, therefore, injury and inflammation can cause pain on the outside while walking. This type of tendon injury is usually the result of overuse or inadequate and tight shoes.
A tendon injury can also result from abrupt, and sudden bodyweight application especially in athletes following improper training techniques.
Individuals with high arches have a greater risk of falling prey to peroneal tendinitis.
A less common foot problem associated with walking difficulty is a tarsal coalition. It is a rare condition that arises due to the development of an abnormal connection between the tarsal (back of the foot bone) bones.
As bones are covered by soft tissues, the connection can be a link between cartilage, fibrous tissue, or the bone itself. The result is difficulty walking due to stiffness of the ankle, foot pain while walking, and frequent muscle spasms in the foot and lower leg due to inward turning of the foot. Ankle sprains are frequently seen in such patients that induce pain on the outside of the foot.
Bunions And Calluses
Like a tarsal coalition, a bunion is an abnormality of the foot bones. Here, however, metatarsals are involved instead of tarsal bones. A bunion is a bone bump that forms on the base of the big toe due to misplacement/pulling of the thumb/big toe towards the smaller toes.
The common causes of bunion creation include wearing high heels and ill-fitting shoes (too tight to adjust the toes). It may present as foot pain that comes and goes on itself.
Corns and calluses are thickened areas of skin formed as a result of repeated rubbing and irritation. These too are attributed to incorrectly sized footwear.
The Achilles tendon is a long and sturdy tendon that joins the heel bone to the calf muscle (of the leg). Soft tissue is a must for walking and running. Therefore, inflammation (tendinitis) or rupture of this tendon directly impacts your walking capabilities.
The most common symptoms of Achilles tendonitis include foot stiffness, difficulty walking (pain when walking), soreness in the back of the heel, and thickening of the tendon.
Insertional tendonitis causes more foot pain while Achilles tendon rupture is common in ages 30-40 years, a study suggests.
Also known as hairline fractures, stress fractures are amongst the most common causes of foot pain when walking.
As the name suggests stress fractures are generated by repeated submaximal stresses and assaults instead of a single injury. Such fractures usually go unnoticed and are prevalent in ballplayers and runners.
According to a study, there are numerous stress fractures of the foot and ankle that the orthopedics should be aware of:
- cuboid bone
Diagnosing a stress fracture is tough and requires extensive scanning (X-ray, MRI, etc.) along with physical examination. A stress fracture causes outside foot and heel pain during walking.
Many small bones collectively make up the anatomical structure of the foot. An issue with any of these bones can land you into trouble.
One small cube-shaped bone present on the outer edge of your foot is the cuboid bone that connects the foot to the ankle. Injury to the joint or ligaments surrounding the bone gives rise to cuboid syndrome, a condition characterized by pain and tenderness on the edge of the foot.
It is a relatively more common cause of foot pain on the outside while walking than considered by the healthcare providers. Underlying causes include properly-fitted shoes and obesity.
The foot pain by this particular syndrome goes away by resting, however, it might take 6 to 8 weeks.
Arthritis as a cause of pain on the outside of the foot when walking
Degenerative diseases of the bones can induce pain. Be it osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, bone disintegration is the cause of foot aches.
Foot arthritis can limit your movement. The foot pain that you are experiencing might be due to osteoarthritis of the foot. It affects approximately 24% of the patients on average.
At times the pain is accompanied by redness, swelling, and even cracking sounds on movement.
In a study, a whopping 93.5% of the rheumatoid arthritis patients admitted to experiencing foot pain and the most common site was the ankle.
Emphasis has been laid on providing appropriate treatment (orthotics, footwear, medicines, etc.) to treat foot-related disabilities of RA patients.
Plantar fascia refers to a thick band of soft tissue present on the bottom of your feet that runs along the length of the foot.
The fascia attaches to the heel, therefore, stabbing heel pain on walking is an evident symptom of the condition. It usually causes pain on the bottom of the foot but it may radiate to different areas as well.
As per a study, plantar fasciitis is a disabling condition that causes foot pain while walking.
A neuroma refers to the thickening/aggregation of nerve tissues. When this thickening occurs in the foot bones (metatarsal bones)c, the condition is referred to as intermetatarsal or morton’s neuroma.
Wearing tight/tapered and high-heeled shoes or involving in strenuous physical activities can lead to neuroma development.
Patients experience typical nerve symptoms i.e. pain (in the ball of the foot) on lifting that may be accompanied by burning and tingling. Some people might also experience numbness.
People having flat feet have anatomical configurations that make them prone to developing pain on the outer side of the foot when walking.
Foot pain is diagnosed and managed by orthopedics or podiatrists. A podiatrist is a medical professional who deals with issues of the foot and lower legs.
The underlying cause of pain on the outside of the foot is determined using scans and radiographs (X-rays, MRI scans, CT scans, bone scans, etc.). The imaging details are paired with the physical examination, medical history of the patient, and location of the pain.
Treatment Options for pain on the outside of the foot when walking
The main aim of the treatment is to provide pain relief and heal the injury.
Rest And Medication
The most basic principle of managing foot pain is the RICE principle that is:
- Ice Therapy
- Compression (via elastic bandages)
- Elevation of the affected foot
These steps remove the stress on the foot, induce an anti-inflammatory effect and allow better and quicker healing.
Over-the-counter painkillers and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)are also prescribed to ease the pain.
As most conditions are the unwanted outcomes of improper tight and high-heeled footwear, it is crucial to check your shoes and consult a podiatrist about the best-suited footwear.
Shoe inserts and braces are recommended in case of stress fractures and cuboid syndrome.
Physical Therapy And Stretches
Physical therapy is very effective in alleviating foot pain and speeding up recovery in cases of soft tissue injury (tendonitis, ligament issues, ankle sprains. etc.).
A physiotherapist may also guide you about effective stretches that you can do at home to achieve pain relief.
Surgery as an option of pain on the outside of the foot when walking
Surgical treatment is reserved for severe cases. Torn tendons or ligaments are repaired with surgical intervention after which you might be made to wear a splint/cast.
Pain in the outside of the foot when walking can be debilitating. It can reduce the quality of life and is caused by a number of underlying foot conditions. The most common causes of this foot pain include stress fractures, ankle sprains/twists, peroneal tendonitis, arthritis, and cuboid syndrome. Wearing tight, improper shoes may lead to the development of calluses, neuromas (morton’s neuroma), and bunions. Pain from Achilles tendonitis and plantar fasciitis may also be felt on the outside of the foot. People having flat feet are at a greater risk of suffering from foot pain. In most cases, painkillers and the RICE principle do the trick in providing pain relief. Physical therapy releases the tension of the foot muscles. Surgery is only done to repair torn ligaments.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can my foot pain go away on its own?
Yes, in most cases foot pain is the result of an ankle sprain and goes away in weeks’ time (may take a few weeks).
What Does A Stress Fracture On Outside Of Foot File Like
You may experience pinpoint pain and tenderness on the site of fracture. It is usually painful to touch the site. Pain increases with movement.
Can You Self-Diagnose A Stress Fracture?
Stress fractures are difficult to diagnose even for healthcare practitioners. Diagnosis requires radiographic imaging and can not be diagnosed by one’s own self.
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