Have Sharp Foot Pain on the Sides of Your Feet? (9 possible reasons)

If you’re experiencing sharp pain on the sides of your feet, there could be a lot of different reasons why. The cause will largely depend on whether the pain is on the inside or outside portion of the foot. Here are a few of the more common culprits, as well as information on how this type of discomfort is usually treated.


When tendons on the outside of the foot become irritated, they then become inflamed. This is a condition known as tendonitis. If you’ve recently sprained your ankle or you run a great deal, then you will be at a higher risk for developing this issue. Symptoms usually appear mild at first and then gradually worsen over time. The typical courses of treatment are rest, ice, and over-the-counter pain medications. If those more conservative options don’t work, then your doctor will probably recommend a prescription pain medication. Tendonitis will usually clear up on its own within a week or two, as long as you stay off the affected area as much as you can.

Cuboid Syndrome

This oddly-named condition also affects the outside portion of the foot. The cause is a partial dislocation of a small bone known as the cuboid, due to repetitive strain or an ankle injury. Pain will usually spread from the outside of the foot to the toes, and is usually at its worst in the morning. Running, jumping, or simply walking can also exacerbate symptoms. Rest is usually the best treatment option.

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Ankle Sprain

Most people think that an ankle sprain only affects the ankle joint, but it can have far-reaching implications for other areas of the foot. When the foot rolls inward, a ligament known as the anterior talofibular ligament suffers damage. As the fibers that comprise this ligament tear, bruising, swelling, instability, and severe pain are the results. About 35 percent of people who suffer an ankle sprain experience long-term instability in the joint, often requiring physical therapy to strengthen the area.1


A bunion is one of the most common reasons for sharp pain in the sides of the feet. It is characterized by an unmistakable bump that is usually located near the big toe. Symptoms include swelling, inflammation, and extreme, often aching soreness. Women typically experience this problem more than men because high-heeled shoes with narrow toe boxes lend themselves to the formation of bunions. While soaking feet in warm water can sometimes bring relief, it will only be temporary.2 Surgery may be needed in order to permanently resolve the problem.

Posterior Tibial Tendonitis

This issue affects the tendon located near the inner portion of the ankle that stretches under the foot, and functions to support the inside portion of the arch. Just like all other forms of tendonitis, the main cause of posterior tibial tendonitis is repetitive stress. Rest is usually the most effective treatment, but prescription pain medications and/or steroid injections are sometimes needed in severe cases.

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There are two forms of arthritis that can result in pain affecting either the inside or outside portion of the feet – rheumatoid and degenerative arthritis. Symptoms can often vary in severity, and treatment usually involves the use of pain medications, possibly the use of orthotics, physical therapy and, in some cases, surgery.

Stress Fracture

A stress fracture can cause severe pain on either side of the foot. As the name implies, it is a small break in a bone, and usually caused by repetitive movements – typically due to sporting activities. Symptoms are usually rather mild to start, but they get progressively worse as pressure continues to be applied to the foot. If you have any reason to suspect that you have a stress fracture in your foot, please get to a doctor as soon as possible to avoid potentially much more serious complications.

Calluses and/or Corns

These are relatively mild issues, but they can lead to a great deal of pain if they aren’t treated promptly. Corns and calluses typically occur due to repetitive friction in a certain area of the foot that stimulates the production of extra layers of skin. Corns, in particular, can be quite painful, because they dig deeper into skin of the foot.

Tarsal Coalition

This is a very rare cause of foot pain that will typically happen in younger people whose feet are still developing. The condition develops when two bones are connected in an improper way. Symptoms include not only pain, but also foot cramps that can lead to an abnormal gait. Surgery may be needed in order to correct the condition, but immobilization can sometimes be effective.

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Treatment Options

Foot pain can often times be treated very effectively at home, primarily through rest and the use of ice periodically through the day. Wrap ice or a bag of frozen vegetables in a towel, and apply it to the problem area. Never put it directly on the skin, however, because that could lead to permanent skin damage. Apply it three or four times a day, for about 15-20 minutes each time.

Also, if you have crutches, use them around the house, if possible, to keep pressure off of the foot. If you are experiencing swelling, elevate the foot whenever you can.

If your condition isn’t severe, you might be able to find relief through some gentle exercises that can strengthen the foot and alleviate symptoms.3 Flexibility exercises, for instance, can increase your range of motion as well as help to make your foot stronger so that it can better withstand stress.

Whether your foot pain is on the side or anywhere else, you need to see a doctor if it gets so bad it starts affecting your quality of life. He or she will more than likely recommend a conservative course of action first, involving rest, ice, and over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen or naproxen. If those don’t work, then your doctor might prescribe a painkiller. Surgery is only recommended in the most severe cases when all other options have proven unsuccessful.

For more foot health tips, keep reading here:

5 Signs You’re Wearing Shoes Too Small

3 Flat Feet Exercises (that really help strengthen arches!)


1. “Pain On Outside Of Foot: Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment”. Foot-Pain-Explored.com. N.p., 2017. Web. 13 Apr. 2017.

2. “Bunions | Foot.Com – The Most Comprehensive Source Of Foot Health And Foot Care Information (Foot Pain, Heel Pain)”. Foot.com. N.p., 2017. Web. 13 Apr. 2017.

3. Kerkar, Pramod. “Lateral Foot Pain Or Pain On The Outer Side Of The Foot!”. ePainAssist. N.p., 2017. Web. 13 Apr. 2017.