Pain or strain in your foot arches is a common sports injury and often linked to inflammation of the plantar fascia, the shock absorption ligament along the bottom of each foot. The pain can also highlight underlying issues to do with the structure of your arches. Arch pain or arch strain, refers to an inflammation and/or burning sensation at the arch of the foot. It is caused by an inflammation which can be brought about by excessive stretching of the plantar fascia, usually due to over-pronation. Left untreated, strain on the longitudinal arch continues and spurs may develop.
Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome develops when there is compression on the tibial nerve as it passes through the tarsal tunnel on the inner side of the ankle bone (medial malleolus). It can cause pain on bottom of foot as well as pins and needles. Numbness in the heel can often extend down to the big toe and adjacent three toes. In addition, it may also produce hot and cold sensations along the bottom of the foot. Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome is caused by anything which occupies space in the tarsal tunnel including cysts, ganglions, bone spurs, swelling from ankle injuries or tumours. Treatment aims to reduce the foot arch pain and usually consists of rest, strengthening and stretching exercises, compression bandages and steroid injections. If the pain in bottom of foot persists, surgery may be required.
Persistant pain and selling under the ball of the foot and extending towards the toes (most commonly the 2nd). Some swelling may be disable on the top of the foot along with redness. Often a sensation of ‘walking on the bones for the foot’ will be described, and there is a positive Lachman’s test. Often a tear will result in the toes splaying (daylight sign) and clawing.
The doctor will examine your feet for foot flexibility and range of motion and feel for any tenderness or bony abnormalities. Depending on the results of this physical examination, foot X-rays may be recommended. X-rays are always performed in a young child with rigid flatfeet and in an adult with acquired flatfeet due to trauma.
Non Surgical Treatment
Arch pain can be treated with orthotics, inserts that have proper arch support to relieve the strain on the plantar fascia, mild stretching and anti-inflammatory medications. Orthotics will relieve most of the strain put onto the plantar fascia by supporting the band from underneath when pressure is applied. Tape can also be used in conjunction with orthotics to restrict movement and support the plantar fascia. Stretching should be used along with orthotics and continued long after the symptoms of arch pain are gone to prevent it from occurring again.
The soft tissue surgeries usually would include a lengthening of the Achilles tendon, releasing of the plantar fascia as well as tendon transfers. These procedures are usually done in conjunction with bony procedures such as calcaneal osteotomies (to lower the heel bone and get it more under the leg itself), as well as metatarsal osteotomies. These procedures usually involve either cutting or fusion of the bones, and placement of fixation devices to allow the bones to heal. Healing time is usually at least 6-8 weeks and usually the patient must be non-weight bearing during the healing process. These types of surgical corrections are usually reserved for the more difficult, painful and deformed feet. They can require more surgeries down the line. These procedures are usually the last resort after all other modes of treatment have been exhausted (except in children where it is usually best to treat the deformity early). There are many different degrees of high arched feet and these procedures should be left for the more extreme cases. These cases usually require a very high degree of surgical skill and should only be done by those who frequently perform these types of cases.
The best method for preventing plantar fasciitis is stretching. The plantar fascia can be stretched by grabbing the toes, pulling the foot upward and holding for 15 seconds. To stretch the calf muscles, place hands on a wall and drop affected leg back into a lunge step while keeping the heel of the back leg down. Keep the back knee straight for one stretch and then bend the knee slightly to stretch a deeper muscle in the calf. Hold stretch for 15 seconds and repeat three times.
Easy Beginner Version. Start with your bare foot on a flat surface, toes spread out. Place a penny under the ball of your foot and the end of a pen under the middle of your arch (sticking out from the inside of your foot). Activate your arch by flexing your arch muscle. You should feel the muscles on the ball of your foot pushing down on the penny, but your arch shouldn’t be pushing down on the pen. These tools help you (1) avoid rolling your foot and (2) avoid pressing down with your toes (as an extra tip, you can slide a business card under your toes before doing the exercise-when you activate your arch, you should be able to slide the business card out easily with your fingers). Do your best to keep your toes relaxed. Advanced Version. Once you’re ready to move on, you can try this advanced version. It builds on the above exercise to incorporate full body twisting and balance, helping you to maintain proper arches while you move. Using the same ideas from above, stand on a flat surface in your bare feet with a penny under the ball of your foot and the end of a pen under your arch. This time, stand with your back a few inches away form a wall or a door. Lift your other leg (the one without the penny or pen) and stand on one foot. Use the wall for balance, if necessary. Lift one arm and stretch it across your body until you touch the wall or door on the opposite side, maintaining a straight back. Keep your foot straight and your arch on the penny but above the pen. Your arch will want to follow the movement and roll off, but you will need to activate it to stay stable during the movement. Lift your other arm and stretch it across the opposite side of your body, still keeping your arch in place.