Pain in the arch of the foot can happen when there is an injury to the muscles, bones, ligaments or tendons that form the foot arch. It is a common complaint experienced by runners but may also affect less active individuals.
The foot arch plays a crucial role in human biomechanics. It helps absorb shock, bear weight, distribute impact and stabilise your movements. But because of this, it is also prone to stress and wear and tear, resulting in pain and discomfort.
What other symptoms can accompany a painful foot arch?
Pain in the arch of the foot can be accompanied by tenderness or stabbing pain in the bottom part of the heel. Over time, this may cause stiffness of the heel cord and calf muscles, and pain may worsen after standing or walking for an extended time.
What are the causes of a painful arch of the foot?
1. Plantar fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis is the most common condition causing a painful arch. It is caused by overuse injury to the plantar fascia resulting in inflammation and pain. The plantar fascia is a strong ligament that spans from the heel to the front of your foot.
Runners and athletes often experience it due to overtraining and improper footwear. However, less active people can also develop plantar fasciitis. Pain is generally worse in the morning upon waking up and aggravated by prolonged standing.
Stretching exercises can help relieve stiffness in the foot, arch and leg muscles. However, it is advisable to consult a physiotherapist to help reduce the pain and have a footwear recommendation that will support the arch of your foot.
2. Posterior tibial tendon dysfunction (PTTD)
PTTD is an injury to the posterior tibial tendon which connects the inner foot to the calf muscles. Inflammation of this tendon can collapse the foot arch causing pain and instability.
Pain may extend from the back of the calf and inner part of the ankle, where the tendon runs. In addition, physical activities that stress the calf muscle, such as running, may trigger pain and ankle swelling.
In people who have overpronation, the foot rolls too far downward and inward during their steps. This causes flattening of the foot and insufficiency in walking or running mechanics. Over time, overpronation can injure the muscles, tendons, and ligaments that support the foot arch.
Overpronation can also cause problems in the knee, hip, and spine if left untreated. Therefore, it is recommended to wear specific orthotic fitting or stability shoes to help minimise overpronation (for those that require this). In addition, strengthening key muscles of your leg and foot can also help support the foot arch and correct overpronation.
4. Cavus Foot
Cavus foot is a condition in which the foot has an excessively high arch. This can cause problems because of the added amount of weight being placed on the ball and heel of the foot during physical activities. Over time, a cavus foot can result in pain and instability.
Cavus foot can be caused by neurological conditions such as cerebral palsy or stroke. People with a cavus foot can also develop foot deformities such as calluses, claw toe and hammertoe.
Special orthotic adjustments and shoe inserts may help relieve pain and correct this condition. However, severe deformities may require surgery to manage the symptoms and restore stability in the foot.
Consult a physiotherapist
In many cases, pain in the foot's arch can resolve with home remedies and rest. However, if you are frequently experiencing this kind of pain and it does not go away for days, it is recommended to talk to a medical professional.
A physiotherapist can help you manage the symptoms and identify the root cause of your pain. They can guide you with specialised treatment and exercises to help you deal with the pain and correct impairments in your biomechanics.
Arch pain should not be ignored as it can also indicate a more serious condition and results in injury to your joints. It is always best to take care of your foot health, especially if you have diabetes.
Your physiotherapist will conduct a comprehensive examination of your injury through medical history and physical assessment. A different physical test may be performed to identify the structures in your foot involved in your injury, and that might be causing the pain.
Further diagnostic imaging may be required to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms:
Pain in the foot's arch can be dealt with through simple lifestyle modification.
Listen to your body. Pain is usually a sign that something is wrong and needs your attention. Take a break from the activities that might cause stress to your feet. Allow sufficient rest periods in between your workouts and training days.
Self-stretching techniques may also relieve pain and tightness in your feet. To stretch the calves do these simple steps:
Stand in front of a wall. Facing it, place your hands on the wall for stability.
Place your right foot behind your left foot.
Assume a lunging position. Slowly bend your left leg forward.
Feel the gentle stretch on the right calf muscle and hold the position for 30 seconds.
Slowly return to the starting position and repeat on each leg three times.
3. Pain medication
Inflammation and pain can be managed by taking over-the-counter pain medications if the pain is severe or interfering with your daily activities. However, it is best to consult your medical doctor before taking any medical drugs if you have a medical condition.
4. Use supportive footwear
Wearing shoes with good arch support can help stabilise the foot arch and may help prevent injuries. Avoid wearing flip-flops and other unsupportive footwear as much as possible. Consider wearing supportive footwear even around your house.
What is the treatment for pain in the arch of the foot?
Aside from lifestyle modification and wearing proper footwear, a physiotherapist can help you correct various impairments in your foot biomechanics. Bracing and casting may also provide support and pain relief in severe cases.
Losing weight and avoiding physical activities that are causing your pain are priorities of your treatment. Surgery will be the last option if conservative treatment fails.
Recovery from a painful foot arch depends on the severity of the condition causing your symptoms. In most cases, it may take 6 to 18 months to recover from injuries like plantar fasciitis completely. Generally, you will be asked to limit yourself to low-impact activity for a few weeks to heal your foot.
A painful foot arch is a common complaint among runners but can still occur in less active individuals. It is usually a sign of an underlying medical condition that may need your attention.
Rest and lifestyle modification are the primary treatments to control and prevent chronic pain. However, it is recommended to consult a medical professional if pain persists for more than a few days.