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Foot & Ankle

10 Causes of Stabbing Pain in Foot Side

By Last updated on January 9th, 2023January 9th, 2023No Comments

Foot pain can occur in multiple parts of your foot. It can be on the foot’s ball, heel, outer side (lateral foot), or the inner side (medial foot). The pain you feel on your foot’s outer side is known as lateral ankle pain. 

Several factors can cause stabbing pain in the foot side, such as injuries, fractures, nerve damage, cuboid syndrome, and many types of deformation. People involved in sports or extensive workouts often experience pain in the foot side. 

The lateral ankle pain may happen suddenly or develop gradually. Getting on-time treatment can help you recover from the pain faster. 

Why Do You Feel Pain in Your Lateral Foot? 

Why Do You Feel Pain in Your Lateral Foot

The 10 major causes of stabbing pain in the lateral foot are:

Cuboid Syndrome 

Cuboid syndrome, also known as cuboid subluxation, is a less common cause of pain on the foot side. It usually results from continuous stress on the feet. 

Repetitive movements can cause the muscles on your foot side to wear and tear. Such activities can also dislocate the tiny bones on foot called cuboids. Cuboid syndrome results in extreme pain that can travel from the foot to the ankle. 

Cuboid syndrome is likely to occur in dancers, athletes, and fitness enthusiasts. 

Nerve Problem

Nerve damage, or peripheral neuropathy, in the feet is common in people with diabetes. High sugar levels in the blood can damage foot nerves gradually. 

Peripheral neuropathy causes sharp, stabbing pain in the foot side. It can also make you feel a burning sensation. Nerve pain primarily affects mobility, making it hard for you to walk or stand up. 

Ankle Sprain 

Ankle sprains can happen anytime, anywhere. You can slip while running, jumping, or walking, which may affect the ligaments on the side of your foot. 

The stabbing pain in your lateral foot mainly occurs when you get your ankle rolled. This sudden roll can tear your ankle’s tendons, resulting in unbearable pain. The ankle sprain pain can radiate across the foot sides to the heels.

Posterior Tibial Tendonitis 

It refers to the inflammation of the tendon connecting the foot to the calf muscles. Extreme stress and any sudden injury can lead to inflammation in the tendons. 

Posterior tibial tendonitis causes pain and swelling on the ankle, inside, or side of the foot. It can also limit your mobility. 

Peroneal Tendonitis

It is the inflammation in one or both tendons of your leg that connects the lower area to your foot. Peroneal tendonitis occurs due to overuse of the tendons or ankle sprain. It may lead to stabbing pain or swelling on the foot side or around the heel.

Tarsal Coalition 

A tarsal coalition is a congenital condition that refers to the formation of abnormal tissue bridge between two normal tarsal bones. The term “coalition” means merging two or more things into one mass. 

The pain in this condition is felt the most on the foot side that can radiate toward the toes. Tarsal coalition can also lead to muscle stiffness and cramps. Young athletes are likely to feel a stabbing pain in the foot side due to the tarsal coalition. 


Arthritis affects your foot in multiple forms. It could result from inflammation (Rheumatoid arthritis) or bone degeneration (osteoarthritis). 

Osteoarthritis refers to tearing cartilage in the joint from wear and tear. This joint damage can be identified as worn-out cartilage, bone spurs, and reduced joint space. 

Arthritis can lead to severe lateral ankle pain affecting the entire foot, especially the side. 

Stress Fractures 

Stress fractures are one of the most common foot pain causes. A foot fracture is a small break in one or between two bones because of repetitive movements, injuries, falls, and extensive sports activities.

Fractures to the foot side are extremely painful. Mild foot fractures can also lead to severe pain in the entire foot, causing restricted mobility. 


A bunion is a type of foot deformity that causes severe pain in the outside foot area and the big toe. They appear when you move or rotate your big toe inwards or towards the rest of the toes. 

You may feel bunion pain occasionally, which can get excruciating over time. 


Corns are hard, thickened areas on the foot that can appear anywhere but primarily at the foot top or side. Corns impact the deepest layers of your foot skin, causing extreme pain and irritation. 

Treatment Options for Stabbing Pain in Foot Side

Foot side pain can go away within a few weeks with conservative treatment methods. But if the pain aggravates, you can opt for orthobiologic treatments that are less painful than traditional surgical procedures. 

Conservative Methods

Your healthcare provider will recommend the following initial treatments:

  • Rest. If foot pain limits your mobility, you need to rest to prevent it from worsening. 
  • Orthotic Devices. The doctor may suggest using orthotic devices to support your mobility. These include braces, night bars, casts, splints, and gait plates. Orthotics generally differ in the materials. Your healthcare provider may recommend a rigid orthotic, soft-orthotic, or semi-rigid orthotic device, depending on the intensity of the pain. 
  • Icing. Ice helps you lower the painful inflammation in your leg. It’s better to put an ice bag on your foot for 10 minutes to treat the pain.
  • Epsom Salt Soaking. Epsom salt consists of magnesium and sulfate that can help reduce inflammation and swelling in your foot. 
  • Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs). Many anti-inflammatory medicines can help you relieve inflammation and swelling in your body. These include Vaporub, Naproxen, and Aspercreme. Never take any NSAID without your doctor’s consultation. 

Orthobiologic Methods

If you still feel a stabbing pain in foot side, cell-based therapy and platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy can provide you some relief. 

Cell-based therapy is also known as stem cell therapy. It focuses on your natural tissues and cells. Two types of cell-based therapies help reduce pain: Minimally Manipulated Adipose Tissue transplant (MMAT) and Bone Marrow Concentrate (BMAC). 

MMAT focuses on replacing damaged adipose tissues with healthier ones, while BMAC harvests your bone marrow cells and transplants them with new ones. 

The doctor will put you under anesthesia in both cell-based therapies, which usually take only 1.5-2 hours to complete. You can even go home right after your procedure on the doctor’s instructions. 

PRP targets your tissues and stimulates their growth. Platelets are an essential part of our blood. They perform several functions, such as releasing 10 types of growth factors to stimulate tissue growth, sending out chemical signals to attract the blood’s healing cells, and producing a healing web called fibrin. 

Healthy tissues and regenerative cells promote recovery and prevent any future injury. PPR is typically completed within 45 minutes.

Dr. Matthew HC Otten

Director of Regenerative Orthopedic and Sports Medicine
Fellowship-trained & Board Certified in Sports medicine
Director Angiography at Harvard Clinical Research Institute
Michigan State University Alumni


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