The arch of the foot extends from the heel to the base of the big toes and is made up of tendons, ligaments and bone. Each person’s arch is different, some are higher and some are lower. Both low and high arches can cause pain. Foot arches take a big load every day, so if you’re experiencing foot arch pain, then read on for some more information.
What do foot arches do?
Our foot arches have a significant role to play in our day to day movement. Being made up of tissues, ligaments and bones, they are our natural shock absorbers. The soft tissues in the arch protect our musculoskeletal system by absorbing the forces that occur from contact with the ground, over a long period of time. Our arches help to distribute our weight evenly, balance our stance and stabilise our steps especially over uneven surfaces.
What causes arch pain?
The following conditions will cause foot arches to ache:
Overpronation – sometimes called flat feet. The feet aren’t actually flat however. If your feet are overpronating, the outer part of your foot is touching the ground first when walking, causing the foot to roll into the arch, in turn causing the arch to flatten.
Over the long term this can damage muscles and ligaments of the foot, of which there over one hundred. This ripples out to create pain in other areas of the body such as the knees, hips and lower back. Therefore lower back pain may be related to problems with your foot arches rather than problems with your back.
Plantar Fasciitis – the plantar fascia is the thick band of tissue that extends from the heel to the base of the toes. This tissue can become inflamed by over use or over stretching and can be especially painful after getting out of bed or after you’ve been sitting for long periods of time. For mild cases, the pain will disappear after walking around for a while but for more severe cases the pain persists.
This condition is one of the most common causes of foot arch pain.
Stress Fractures – these are surprisingly common and occur with repeated stress on the feet from excessive running, walking or over-training. It’s essential in these situations that the foot is supported properly during exercise with the right footwear or proper training methods. If not, stress fractures can become full-blown bone breaks.
Unlike plantar fasciitis that sometimes gets better after walking, the pain from stress fractures gets worse and will only be relieved with rest and professional treatment.
Tendonitis – inflammation of the tendons in the feet can also cause arch pain. The muscles of the leg, foot, and ankle are anchored to the bone by tendons, which are cord-like structures. These tendons run down the leg and into the foot and if they become inflamed will cause arch pain.
High arches – some people are born with high arches which can also contribute to foot arch pain. In these cases, it may be a matter of providing more support for the ankle or orthoses to relieve the arch.
What treatments are available for arch pain? Start with R.I.C.E
At home you can follow the R.I.C.E approach – Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation to alleviate arch pain. This approach can be used for all foot pain where there is soft tissue damage causing swelling and pain in your feet.
In our podiatry clinic, we’d assess your foot structure, walking style (gait) and the cause of the problem by finding out more about your activities and habits. Where appropriate, we’d teach you some stretching exercises to relieve the pain in your arches that you can do at home.
Other treatments in our clinic would include the following:
- Physical therapy – our podiatrists would apply gentle techniques to help the arch of the foot rebalance and restabilise.
- Footwear changes – we would assess your foot, discuss your activities and advise a change in your footwear if needed.
- Orthoses/Biomechanical therapy – if necessary, we may recommend custom orthotics to help balance your arch and stabilise the foot.
Don’t leave foot arch pain unattended – call in so we can have a look
Foot arch pain can be an indication of a longer term problem or stress fracture. Call into one of our podiatry clinics in Adelaide, Stirling or Mount Barker to have your feet assessed by one of our friendly and knowledgeable podiatrists.