Pain across the bottom of the foot at any point between the heel and the ball of the foot is often referred to as "arch pain." Although this description is non-specific, most arch pain is due to strain or inflammation of the plantar fascia (a long ligament on the bottom of the foot). This condition is known as plantar fasciitis and is sometimes associated with a heel spur. In most cases, arch pain develops from overuse, unsupportive shoes, weight gain, or acute injury. If arch pain persists beyond a few days, see a foot and ankle surgeon for treatment to prevent this condition from becoming worse.
A common cause of foot arch pain is a stress fracture. They tend to occur from repeated overloading of one of the foot bones from activities such as jumping and running especially if you have suddenly increased your activity level. The breaks in the bone may be small but they can be extremely painful. Stress fractures of the metatarsal bones or the navicular can cause anything from mild to severe foot arch pain. The Tibialis Posterior muscle plays a very important role in supporting the medial arch of the foot. Posterior Tibial Tendonitis can occur either through repetitive use e.g. high impact sports such as soccer or tennis, or from an injury e.g. a fall. This causes the tendon to become inflamed or even torn, resulting in pain on bottom of foot. This pain usually gets worse with activity or when standing for long periods. If the problem persists, the inner side of the foot (known as the medial longitudinal arch of the foot) gradually collapses down, causing flat feet. A simple test for this condition is to stand on one leg and rise up onto your tiptoes. If you cannot, it indicates a problem with the Posterior Tibial tendon. Treatment usually consists of rest, ice, exercises, orthotics and physical therapy.
Common symptoms of plantar fasciitis include pain in the morning when you first get out of bed, pain and stiffness when you start to walk after sitting for a while, increasing arch or heel pain toward the end of the day, tired feet at the end of the day. Other causes of arch and heel pain include arthritis, infection, fractures and sprains, and even certain systemic diseases. Since there are multiple possible causes, you should see your podiatrist for a thorough evaluation if you are experiencing arch or heel pain that does not respond quickly to early treatment.
Diagnosis of a plantar plate tear can often be challenging due to the complex nature of the anatomy of the foot. Careful history taking and an examination of the area of pain is required to determine the extent and cause of the tear. If necessary, further investigations such as x-rays or diagnostic ultrasound may be ordered by your podiatrist to help evaluate the severity of the problem.
Non Surgical Treatment
Consult a doctor to diagnose the condition and determine the cause. If revealed to be plantar fasciitis, please refer to our article on that injury for further information. Generally arch pain is easy to treat, with the most effective method of treatment being the placement of arch supports in the shoes. This counteracts the strain placed on the arches by biomechanical errors, causing them to cease stretching excessively. A specialist can recommend the inserts suitable to your needs, which will depend on the shape of your arches. These supports should lessen your symptoms within days. If pain is severe you should refrain from running activities until it subsides to avoid risking an aggravation of the injury. To maintain fitness, alter your training program temporarily to be focused on low-impact sports like swimming. Applying ice to the affected area should assist in reducing pain and swelling.
Although most patients with plantar fasciitis respond to non- surgical treatment, a small percentage of patients may require surgery. If, after several months of non-surgical treatment, you continue to have heel pain, surgery will be considered. Your foot and ankle surgeon will discuss the surgical options with you and determine which approach would be most beneficial. No matter what kind of treatment you undergo for plantar fasciitis, the underlying causes that led to this condition may remain. Therefore, you will need to continue with preventive measures. Wearing supportive shoes, stretching, and using custom orthotic devices are the mainstays of long-term treatment for plantar fasciitis.
There are several things that you can do to prevent and treat arch pain. This includes Avoiding high heeled shoes, Stretching the calf muscles regularly, Wearing well fitted, comfortable shoes, Using customisedorthotic devices or shoe inserts, Elevating the feet and applying ice and taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications. You can also care for your feet by paying attention to any changes in your feet as you get older. It is normal for feet to lose some of their fat pads as a person ages. Your feet may get bigger, both wider and longer as well. Make sure that you wear shoes that are sturdy, but comfortable, and have your feet measured before you buy shoes to make sure that you are still wearing the right size. Shoe sizes vary from one brand to the next, so it is a good idea to have your feet measured every time you purchase shoes. When choosing shoes, match the shoe to the activity for which it will be worn. Within the broader grouping of athletic shoes, there are different categories with different features. For example, a running shoe has different features than a walking shoe. You may develop some arthritic changes in your feet over time, too. If you notice that you are experiencing more pain in your feet, see your doctor for an evaluation. If the pain is arthritis-related, your doctor may recommend medication or other treatment to slow the progression of the arthritis.
Massage therapy is a great way to loosen muscles and help improve mobility in in your feet. As many people with foot pain have discovered, tight muscles in your legs or back can lead to tense foot muscles. All those muscles are connected, so tension in your back can cause tension in your legs which can pull the tendons in your feet and cause stiffness and pain. Getting acupuncture or a professional full body massage are probably the best ways to deal with this, but there are also some simple tricks you can do at home to help keep muscles limber. These are great for loosening up and improving circulation, both before and after exercise. Place a tennis ball under the arch of your bare foot and roll it around, stretching the muscles in your foot and promoting blood flow. You can also roll the ball under your calves and upper legs to work out stiffness and knots. If you feel the tennis ball is too easy, try a lacrosse ball for deeper massaging. This is also demonstrated in the exercise video above. Use a foam roller, those big overpriced rolls of foam that are now available in every department and sporting goods store are fantastic for self-massage (why a roll of foam costs $30 is beyond us, but they do work wonders-our advice is to not waste money on the more expensive fancy grooved ones because even the simplest rollers work great). The exercises you can do with foam rollers seem to be endless, and there are literally hundreds of free videos online showing how to use them to massage every part of your body. Here's one we picked out that specifically targets foot and leg muscles related to arches and plantar fasciitis.