Pain on the outside (side of the pinky toe) of the foot is a common problem we treat in our Seattle foot and ankle clinic. In most cases outside of the foot pain responds well to treatment.
If you cannot visit us at our Seattle clinic, you can find self-treatment suggestions for pain on the outside of the foot at the bottom of this page.
If the outside of your foot hurts, it is usually due to one of about 8 different conditions that affect the outside of the foot near the 5th metatarsal (long bone behind little toe) bone. Sometimes the pain is found a bit more on top of the foot.
Causes of Pain on the Outside of the Foot
Listed below are the most common causes of pain on the outside of the foot. Use the links to read more and learn how to best treat pain in this area (remember you should see a physician to accurately diagnosis your problem). A fracture of the long bone behind your little toe (5th metatarsal) in particular can be very serious and resistant to healing so make sure you don’t delay your diagnosis. Use the links below and follow the instructions we give for treating these problems (continued after video).
Some of the common causes of pain on the outside of your foot are listed below in order from problems close to the toe heading back toward the heel. Use the links to find detailed diagnosis and treatment information on each problem:
1. 5th Toe (baby toe) Hammertoe – A curled pinky toe often results in shoe pressure that leads to pain and possibly the formation of corns. Use the link to learn how hammertoe pain can be eliminated.
2. Tailor’s Bunion – A bump on the side of foot at the head of the 5th metatarsal bone (just behind the little toe). Tailor’s bunions can become painful and inflammed when the enlarged bone gets pressed on by your shoes. There are a number of available treatments including surgery – but surgery should always be used only as a very last resort.
3. Metatarsal Stress Fracture – A tiny fracture through the outside of the bone caused by overuse rather than acute trauma. More common on the 2nd and 3rd metatarsals but can occur in the 5th metatarsal on the outside of the foot also. Swelling is common as is very localized pain when you press on the metatarsal bone.
4. 5th Metatarsal Shaft Fracture – This can be a very serious fracture that may require non-weightbearing or surgery to heal. If you have any suspicion that you might have fractured this bone get it treated immediately.
5. Dorsal Compression Syndrome – Achy pain with activity that is more toward the top of the foot, rather than the side. Often due to flattening of the arch casusing compression between the bones. Use the link to learn about “dorsal compression syndrome”.
6. 5th Metatarsal Tuberosity Fracture - A break of the very base of the 5th metatarsal bone. Often occurs after twisting your ankle. If the base of your 5th metatarsal is painful after an ankle sprain you’ll need an x-ray.
7. Peroneal Tendonitis – The most common cause of outside of foot pain. Caused by inflammation where the peroneus brevis tendon attaches into the base of the 5th metatarsal. Usually responds rapidly to proper treatment.
8. Foot Arthritis – Often causes a deep achy pain sensation on top of the foot just in front of the ankle. Caused by a wearing away of the cartilage between the joints on the side and top of the foot.
Self-Treatment of Pain on the Outside of the Feet
First, for the best solutions to the specific problems listed above use the links to those pages. There are, however, some general things that you can do to help relieve pain on the outside of the foot. Try the solutions below for about 3 weeks. If you are not yet better, see a podiatrist.
1. Use high quality arch supports to transfer pressure off of the outside of the foot to the inside of the foot. This is the most important treatment you can do because it reduces the forces that cause the pain. We recommend the P3 full length prefabricated orthotics for lace up shoes and the P3 3.4 length prefabricated orthotics for smaller shoes. Both of these supports have an arch that work very well to transfer pressure off of the outside of the foot.
2. When you are in your house and not wearing shoes wear Vionic flip flops, sandals or slippers. These have exceptional arch support and will transfer pressure off of the outside of the foot.
3. Use very supportive shoes. You can find a list of supportive shoe of many types on our Shoe List. If you don’t have a good shoe store nearby, these Orthofeet Shoes for Women and Orthofeet Shoes for Men provide great support.
4. Ice your foot for 10 minutes 3 times each day.
5. If you continue to have pain, see a podiatrist. While waiting for your appointment protect your foot by wearing a walking boot.
Taping for Pain on the Outside of the Foot
One of the most common causes of pain on the outside of the foot is peroneal tendonitis. A simple taping that you can do yourself can often reduce tension on the peroneal tendon enough to relieve pain, at least temporarily. This video shows proper technique for taping for peroneal tendon pain.