While one of the most common complaints in my podiatry office is heel pain, a close second would be arch pain. Arch pain doesn’t just plague runners and other athletes, but people who are less active as well.
So, you’re probably wondering--what’s causing my foot arch pain?
Let take a closer look at the purpose of the arch.
Purpose of Your Foot Arch
First, you really have two arches in your feet. One is the medial arch found toward the inside of your foot and the other is the lateral arch on the outside of your foot. These foot arches have a big job to do. They have to hold up your weight, absorb shock when you walk, run, or jump, and maintain your balance. Your arches also allow your feet to be flexible so that you don’t injure yourself when you move.
How Your Foot Arch Type Can Cause Painful Foot Problems
Your foot arch type often dictates what types of foot problems you are more likely to develop.
Flat foot or Pes planus
People with flat feet are more prone to develop several different foot conditions including:
- Plantar fasciitis
- Achilles tendonitis
- Hammertoes and overlapping toes
When the arch of the foot is flat you’re more prone to overpronate or roll your feet in every time you take a step. This overpronation leads to excessive pulling on the plantar fascia, the ligament that runs along the bottom of your foot. It can cause pain in your arch and your heel—these symptoms are most commonly seen with the conditions plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis.
Overpronation also leads to foot deformities such as bunions and hammertoes. These conditions develop over time—the big toe moves towards your little toes causing the bump on the side of your big toe. Your little toes can develop into hammertoes or overlap as a result.
Posterior tibial tendonitis is another condition that causes arch pain. A person with this condition also has a flat foot but it develops when the collapse of the arch is more severe. This condition needs immediate attention to avoid rupture of the tendon.
High arched foot or Pes cavus
Like most flat feet, high arches are inherited. People with high arches place more pressure on their heels and balls of their feet. While people with flat feet tend to develop plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis due to overpronation, people with high arches are also at risk but for a different reason—they place more pressure on the heels of the foot when they walk or run. Again, pain can be felt in the heel and in the arch.
Other conditions common among people with a high arched foot are:
- Calluses on ball and heel of the foot
- Tendency to sprain their ankle when high arches aren’t flexible
However, none of these conditions necessarily cause pain in the foot arch.
Treating Foot Arch Pain At Home
Fortunately, there is a lot you can do to treat pain in the arch of your foot.
If you’re noticing pain in the arch of your foot, take a break from your activities particularly if you’re an athlete. See if a few days of rest make a difference.
Treat Your Inflammation
Pain is caused by inflammation. You can treat it by:
- Icing – use an ice pack or a bag of frozen peas and ice for 7-10 mins three times a day
- Massage can bring blood to the inflamed area to help heal it
- Taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) per your doctors instructions
Change Your Shoes
Improper shoes can often cause arch and heel pain. Your shoes should be supportive and not flop around. To find out if your shoes might be the problem, check out my video “How to Test Any Shoe for Stability.” A word of caution--just because your shoes are made by a well known company doesn't mean they're more stable.
Add An Insert to Your Shoes
In addition to buying more supportive shoes, replace the insert that comes with your shoes with an over-the-counter insert such as Powerstep or Redi-Orthotics.
Many people who experience arch pain have very tight calf muscles and a tight Achilles. Stretching at home is an essential part of any treatment plan. However, it’s important to stretch enough. See below for more information about stretching.
Treating Foot Arch Pain At the Office
While some people can get relieve from their arch pain using in home remedies, most people will need to see a skilled podiatrist to get better. That’s where we come in.
Reducing Your Inflammation
While icing and anti-inflammatory drugs can help reduce inflammation, often you’ll need more to get your pain and inflammation done. This is essential to get better in moderate to severe cases.
Here are the in-office modalities we use:
- Cortisone injection
- Airheel- this device relieves the pressure on your arch
- Taping the foot- this takes the pressure off your arch
- Walking boot- sometimes this is necessary to immobilize the foot
- MLS laser therapy – this therapy heals the pain and inflammation at the cellular level and is very effective for recurring heel and arch pain.
Treating Abnormal Foot Mechanics
While all the methods above are critical to decrease your pain in the short term, you’ll likely need to treat your abnormal foot mechanics. We use traditional custom orthotics and Custom 3D Printed Orthotics to properly align and support your feet. Dr. Berg will determine which orthotics are best for your condition and level of activity.
In addition, if you’re diagnosed with posterior tibial tendonitis you’ll need a special brace to keep your arch from collapsing, It’s called an Arizona brace.
Treating Tight Calf Muscles and Achilles
Of all the factors causing foot problems, a tight calf/Achilles is one of the most destructive. While stretching is a critical component to your recovery from foot arch pain, stretching enough is often difficult. That’s because you need to stretch for long periods of time to make a difference – around 30 minutes.
We provide our patients with an Achilles splint to use while sitting watching TV or reading.
If you're experiencing arch pain, call us at 206-368-7000 or request an appointment online.