Arch pain is a common complaint amongst many of us, particularly if you are someone that keeps active. It can be felt in the heel and ball of the feet but may also spread across the ankle, legs hips and back. Sometimes it can be worse when moving and in the morning. Our feet are more complicated than we may think, and a vital part in our every day lives especially for active people. A foots shape allows it to be spring-like, supporting the weight of the rest of the body and any pressure caused by movement (walking/jumping etc).
Feet have three arches: two longitudinal (medial and lateral) arches and one anterior transverse arch. These are made up with the tarsal and metatarsal bones and supported by ligaments and tendons within the foot.
Arch pain can happen if the muscles, bones or ligaments or tendons get injured. It can also be caused by structural problems such as flat feet and high arches, made worse by life changes such as aging, weight gain, physical stress etc. Sometimes, arch pain can be more than mentioned above and may actually be a condition. Here’s a list:
- PLANTAR FASCIITIS is the most common cause of arch pain. This is caused by inflammation, overuse, or injury to the plantar fascia (the ligament connecting the front of the foot to the heel). It’s a common occurrence among runners, and the main symptom is pain and stiffness in the foot which gets worse after movement. If you experience this it may be a good idea to swap out your shoes or get some insoles to provide an extra layer of support. Incorporating stretching of the feel is also a way to relieve pain.
- OVERPRONATION is the description of how someone’s foot moves when walking. Some people overpronate, which means when they take a step, the outer edge of the heel is hits the floor first before rolling into the arch. This leads to the feet becoming flat and over time can lead to damaged muscles, tendons and ligaments and arch pain. This may also cause knee pain, hip and back pain and corns or calluses on the feet. If you notice the inside of your shoes overly worn in the bottom part (inside the heel and ball of foot) you may be overpronating. Extra support shoes can be worn, inserts can be bought and stretches may also help.
- CAVUS FOOT is when the foot has a very high arch. This could be either a structural issue or it may be caused by a neurological condition such as a stroke or cerebral palsy. Pain is usually felt when walking or standing, it may also cause calluses, hammer toe and claw toe. It also causes a higher risk of getting a sprained ankle due to the feet being more unstable. Again, shoe inserts can be used to relieve some pain. It may also be a good idea to wear shoes with extra ankle support especially if exercising. Sometimes surgery is needed.
- PTTD (POSTERIOR TIBIAL TENDON DYSFUNCTION) is also known as “flatfoot” which can be caused by an injury or inflammation of the posterior tibial tendon. This is the tendon that connects the inner foot to a muscle in the calf. This condition can cause pain if the tendon cannot support the arch, and pain can spread across the calf and inside of the ankle. It usually becomes painful when exercising, especially running. Wearing an ankle brace or show insert can help PTTD, sometimes physical therapy can aid the condition but sometimes you may need surgery.
Ways to help at home:
- Stretching – search online for foot stretches, repeat a few times a day
- Rest – when feeling the pain, rest the foot and avoid strenuous activity for a few days
- Ice pack – sometimes icing the foot for 10-15 mins twice a day can help to relieve the pain
- Pain medication – anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen may help
- Inserts / supportive shoes – these will help with most arch conditions, go to the pharmacy and ask for advice on which is best for you personally
If the above home remedies don’t help, visit your GP for further advise.