The foot’s arch is formed by the tarsal and metatarsal bones and is strengthened by tendons and ligaments. Its job is to help the foot support and distribute the body’s weight.
Arch pain is usually caused by inflammation of the soft tissues in the midfoot called the plantar fascia. The plantar fascia is a thick tissue on the bottom of the foot that connects the toes to the heel bone.
Several foot problems can cause arch pain including:
Plantar fasciitis. Inflammation of the plantar fascia causes arch pain first thing in the morning when rising from bed as well as after long periods of standing. The pain from plantar fasciitis can be relieved with stretching exercises and anti-inflammatory medication. A night splint that keeps the tissue stretched can be helpful as can custom-fitted orthotics to redistribute pressure.
Stress Fractures. Overuse can cause the midfoot bones to become damaged. A stress fracture is a tiny fracture in the bone caused by repetitive overuse and causes pain that worsens with activity. Rest is important and a walking boot or crutches can take the pressure off of the area.
Sprains. A ligament sprain causes pain and swelling immediately after the injury. Landing awkwardly or twisting the foot can cause a sprain. Rest and immobilizing the foot will help the sprain heal.
Tendonitis. Inflammation of the tendons in the foot may cause arch pain. Rest and icing the area can ease the pain and swelling.
Because there are many sources of arch pain, a careful diagnosis by a foot doctor is the best way to identify the problem. We will examine your foot carefully and make imaging tests such as X-rays, CAT scans and MRIs if necessary.
Treating Arch Pain
Generally, our goals in treating arch pain will be to relieve swelling and inflammation and to ease the pressure from the irritated area. Treatments include:
- Resting the foot to reduce inflammation. Crutches or a boot can help the foot rest as can activity modifications.
- Applying ice to ease pain and inflammation. Ice massage such as rolling the foot over a frozen bottle of water can be effective.
- Anti-inflammatory medications. Check with your doctor first before starting a new medicine.
- Changing footwear. Look for shoes with extra cushioning and more arch support.
Preventing Arch Pain
You can prevent arch pain by proper-fitting wearing shoes with good arch support. Avoid unsupportive shoes and sandals like flip-flops.
Regular stretching can help keep foot and calf muscles flexible and strong. If you stand for long periods of time at home or work, consider using an anti-fatigue mat such as at the kitchen sink.