Pain In Arch Of Foot
The arch of the foot runs from the heel to the ball of the foot and is best observed when looking at the foot from the inside (medial) perspective. The arch has several important functions, primarily allowing the foot to work efficiently as we walk. Unfortunately, as important as the arch is, it is also an extremely common area to experience foot pain. In this article I am going to explain more about the arch of the foot and the possible reasons why you may be experiencing pain in arch of foot to help you understand more about this condition and the possible treatment options.
Pain In Arch Of Foot Causes
Experiencing arch pain is very common worldwide and even more so in people who spend long periods standing and in sport’s persons. In the vast majority of cases, pain in arch of foot will be attributable to one specific condition – Plantar Fasciitis. Plantar Fasciitis is the inflammation of the Plantar Fascia – the strong, fibrous structure that extends along the bottom of the foot, from the heel bone to the ball of the foot. It supports and maintains the arch of foot when we are standing and walking. This inflammatory process is thought to occur when there is repeated strain to the Plantar Fascia over time.
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With every step we take, the arch flattens slightly as a shock absorption method and this elongates the fascia, to an extent. The resilience in the fascia and supporting structures prevents the arch flattening too much. However, in some cases, various factors can result in the foot arch flattening excessively, and more than is necessary for normal foot function. This stretches the Plantar Fascia more than it should, and if this stress is repeated over time, small tears can start to appear in the origin of the fascia, on the underside of the heel bone.
These small micro-tears are what trigger the inflammatory response (our body’s natural response to damage and an important part of the healing process) and the onset of Plantar Fasciitis. It is both a combination of the damage to the fascia and the inflammatory process itself that can lead to the pain in the arch of the foot. In some cases the associated foot strain that occurs with this condition can also lead to sweaty feet.
The factors that can cause our foot arches to collapse more than normal include:
- Standing on the feet for large periods of time which is very common with certain occupations such as waiting tables or being a police officer.
- Wearing shoes that provide very little ankle and arch support such as plimsoles.
- Being over-weight as at times the feet to support the entire body weight, placing more strain on the arch of the foot.
- Tightness in the Achilles Tendon as the prevents the ability of the leg to drift naturally over the foot as we walk, and as a compensation method we ‘roll-in’ more with our feet, forcing the arch to flatten excessively and straining the Plantar Fascia.
- Excessive unaccustomed exercise or activity, e.g. taking up jogging or running as a hobby when you are not used to doing so.
The most common scenario of Plantar Fasciitis and pain in arch of foot is a sharp pain experienced in the in arch/heel area (usually specific to a deep, tender spot near the heel), especially after periods of rest. This is why foot pain in the morning is characteristic of this condition. This happens because when the feet are no loaded and bearing our weight, the fascia is not in use and can contract slightly. When we first stand and load the feet, the fascia must suddenly stretch again and this can cause the sharp stabbing pain experienced with the first few steps. Pain is usually the only symptom of this condition because as the Plantar Fascia is a deep structure below the layers of skin and subcutaneous fat, no bruising or swelling should be seen.
If however you do experience pain after periods of rest that tends to subside after you ‘get going’ and ‘warm-up the feet’, before reappearing again, it is definitely possible that the arch pain you are experiencing is related to Plantar Fasciitis. Sometimes the pain can radiate in to and around the heel and occasionally Plantar Fasciitis can be mistaken as heel pain.
Although the best treatment for Plantar Fasciitis is still debated, the general consensus is that the treatment should involve a strategy to counter-act the risk factors that were explained above.
- Anti-Inflammatory Medications
- Ice / Heat Therapy – ice is particularly useful after activity or spending a long time standing on your feet to reduce the inflammation. Heat therapy can be used at other times to help stimulate the circulation and encourage healing in the area.
- Rest – where possible, avoid doing excessive activity and certainly anything that you know can make the condition worse. If this is not always possible, wearing an ankle brace or similar can help to support the arch of the foot.
- Using taping or splinting techniques to minimize movement in the foot and prevent excessive arch flattening.
- Weight management – losing weight and maintaining a healthy body mass index can help to reduce the burden on the feet themselves and particularly the arches which can go some way to helping eliminate plantar fasciitis.
- Stretching – you should stretch the Achilles tendon daily of there is tightness present there. You can also stretch the foot and plantar fascia directly by placing a towel or band over the ball of the foot and gently pulling the foot upwards until a mild stretch is felt in the fascia (see video below). You may also gently stretch the fascia after periods of rest to gently lengthen it before standing, and preventing the shooting pain that is normally experienced after rest.
- Self-Massage – using a tennis or golf ball can help to increase the recovery time of this condition. You can apply pressure on the ball and roll it around the area where it is most painful. This helps to stimulate circulation, prevent fibrous adhesions and sooth the area, all of which can increase recovery time. In the video below you will see a demonstration of how to perform this self-massage correctly.
These treatment strategies will be useful for anyone suffering from pain in arch of foot and may be sufficient to eliminate your symptoms. For more information about Plantar Fasciitis treatment you can download my ebook which details the exact system I use with patients to successfully help them overcome their condition permanently here. As a final word, it is recommended you go and see a Podiatrist for a proper foot examination and ensure all biomechanical issues are addressed properly. This is likely to include the provision of insoles or orthotics to help to support the foot arch properly. The other treatment options will be limited if faulty foot biomechanics are to blame which is why I always recommend a proper foot examination as well.