Foot discomfort can be a real pain in the arch. If your foot hurts along the arch of your foot, the ball of your foot, or on your heel, you may be suffering from arch pain.
Causes and Symptoms
Your arch is comprised of your tarsal and metatarsal bones, along with supporting ligaments and tendons. If you touch the top of any one
of your toes and trace the bone down to the center of your foot, your fingers will trace a bone called your metatarsal. Attached to your toe bones, these five metatarsal bones help
you stand, walk, and run by distributing your weight evenly to
keep you balanced. Connected to your metatarsals, near the
back of your foot, are seven tarsal bones. Together, your tarsals and metatarsals form your foot’s arch.
Your arch runs the length of your foot, including the inside of your foot, giving it a distinctive contoured shape.
Your arches help you:
- Absorb stress.
- Stabilize your body for standing, walking, and running.
Adapt to uneven or sloping surfaces.
An important structure connected to your arch is your posterior tibialis tendon. This muscle originates behind your shin bone, runs inside your ankle, and attaches to several of your tarsal bones within your arch. This tendon is responsible for maintaining a healthy, supportive arch during your everyday activities.
When any of these arch-related bones, ligaments, and tendons are weakened or injured from overuse, excessive activity, or wear and tear from aging, you may experience arch pain.
Do I Have Arch Pain?
To determine if you have arch pain, first identify what type of arch you have.
Self- Assessment Quiz
Do this simple test on yourself:
- Get your feet wet.
- Stand normally on a flat surface where you can see the imprint of your feet, such as a sidewalk or a newspaper.
- Step away from your imprints and look at the wet marks.
You have a low arch if your imprint shows almost the entire bottom of your feet.
A low arch accompanied by arch pain may be indicative of more progressive conditions such as excessive pronation, flat feet, or plantar fasciitis.
If you have a normal arch, you will see an imprint with the inside curve of your foot missing.
Even if your arch is normal, you still could experience arch pain.
You have a high arch if you cannot see anything but your heel and the top of your foot near your toes.
This means your arch pain is likely caused by your weight concentrated too much in the ball and heel of your foot. This improper weight distribution can lead to poor shock absorption and significant arch pain.
In addition to identifying how your arch type may affect your arch pain, ask yourself:
- Do I feel pain behind or on the inside of my ankle bone?
- Does this pain get worse during walking, running, or standing?
Sometimes arch pain is a symptom of a more specific foot ailment. Read the following articles to see if any of these ailments are the culprit behind your arch pain.
- Plantar fasciitis
- Excessive pronation
- Flat feet
If none of these foot conditions seem to apply, you may have a condition called posterior tibial tendon dysfunction (PTTD). When this tendon is weakened or overworked, it creates a type of arch pain that stresses your plantar fascia (the band of connective tissue that stretches from the heel to the ball of your foot), causes gradual fatigue of your arch, and decreases the amount of support your arch gets from the posterior tibialis tendon.
Are There Any Serious Concerns with Arch Pain?
Do not let arch pain go without treatment. Because your arch supports the weight of your entire body, arch pain tends to affect other areas of your feet, ankles, knees, legs, and back. As with most things, early treatment can help prevent longer-term issues.
Arch pain is a progressive condition that may contribute to more serious foot ailments such as:
- Plantar fasciitis
- Flat feet
- Lower back and hip pain
- Knee pain
- Achilles tendonitis
- Shin splints
- Stress fractures
- Heel pain
- Contracted toes
- Morton’s neuroma
- Foot and leg aches
- Loss of the protective padding on the bottom of your foot
- Ball of foot pain
Treatment and Prevention
The following remedies may alleviate arch pain and help prevent additional foot and lower body health problems:
Orthotics or shoe inserts. These will help support your arch, stabilize your heel, and ease some of the stress on your posterior tibialis tendon.
Arch supports. Specialized arch supports help relieve arch pain and discomfort. Make sure you know your arch type (low, medium, or high) since the shape and height of your arch support should match your arch type and height.
Strengthen your muscles. Work on strengthening your tibialis posterior muscle and stretching your Achilles tendon. These two muscles are instrumental in affecting your arch pain and any pronation you might experience.
Wear comfortable and supportive shoes with insoles that fully support the arch. Depending on your lifestyle, your shoes and insoles need to support both your everyday activities (like work) and more intense activities (such as running, jogging, or sports).
Wear night splints. Night splints help alleviate pressure on your arches by keeping your muscles properly positioned and strengthened while you sleep.
- Use cold therapy. Massagers, wraps, and other forms of cold therapy help alleviate arch pain and discomfort.
This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult your health care provider on all matters relating to this or any other condition that may affect your health.