Why Does the Side of My Foot Hurt When Exercising?

Pain on the side of your foot while exercising can range from a mild discomfort to a severe and debilitating ache that requires medical treatment. It can occur for a variety of reasons, some that can easily be remedied by adjusting your exercise habits or environmental conditions. If the pain persists or worsens, however, consult your doctor.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.

Strains and Sprains

Exercise-induced foot pain can be the result of strains or sprains of the ligaments or muscles on the side of the foot. This type of injury develops when you stretch or tear muscles or ligaments due to sudden changes of directions or forcefully exerting yourself during exercise. It can also occur during strength-training exercises if you yank or drop a load of weights rather than move it in a slow and consistent motion.

Stress Fracture

Pain in the side of the foot can be due to a stress fracture. This type of injury occurs when your muscles become too tired due to frequent exercise, overexerting yourself or exercising for long periods at a time. As a result, the physical impact of exercise is absorbed in your bones rather than your muscles, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons explains. This can lead to small fractures or cracks in the bones of the feet. Some medical conditions, such as osteoporosis, can also weaken the bones and lead to stress fractures.


Pain on the side of the foot can be due to overuse — when you place excessive or repetitive stress on the muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones and cartilage of the feet during exercise. You can experience overuse pain if you do not allow a 48-hour recovery time between working muscle groups, too rapidly increase exercise intensity or duration or suffer from a previous muscle or bone injury.

Environmental Factors

Some environmental factors can cause pain on the side of the foot during exercise. Inappropriate exercise attire, such as stiff or unsupportive shoes, ill-fitting socks or improper sports equipment can lead to foot pain, MassGeneral Hospital warns. Repeatedly changing the surface you exercise on, such as going from grass one day to a paved surface the next, can increase your chances of developing painful foot injuries. In addition, training errors or improper technique during exercise can lead to foot pain.