When looking at an adult foot from the inner side, you'll usually notice an upward curve in the middle. This is called an arch. Tendons, which are the tight bands that attach at the heel and foot bones, form the arch. Several tendons in your foot and lower leg work together to form the arch in your foot. The arches are the primary structures of the body that absorb shocks when we are on our feet. When the tendons all pull adequately, the foot forms a moderate, normal arch. When tendons do not pull together properly, there is little or no arch. This is called flat foot or fallen arch. Painful or achy feet, especially in the areas of the arches and heels is a symptom of flat feet and fallen arches. Many people have flat feet without noticing it. But others may experience the following symptoms:
- Feet tire easily
- The inside bottom of feet become swollen
- Foot movement, such as standing on your toes, is difficult
- Back and leg pain
There can be many other causes of arch pain. Direct injury, ligament sprains, muscle strains, poor alignment, overuse, or the tightness or lack of tightness of the joints in the foot may all cause arch pain. Injury to the plantar fascia (connective tissue on the bottom of the foot) is a common cause of arch pain.
- Rest will allow the tissues to heal themselves.
- Ice to relieve pain and reduce swelling can be applied but no longer than 20 minutes.
- Pain relief medications, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen can be used.
- Compression and elevation will help prevent any swelling.
- Arch supports or orthotics may also help to ease arch pain.
Once the severity and cause of arch and foot pain is determined, physical therapy can be started along with corrective measures such as the purchase of new shoes and insoles, exercises to increase strength and flexibility and losing weight if necessary.
If pain or foot damage is severe, your doctor may recommend surgery.
When to consult a doctor
- When the pain begins to interfere with your daily activities.
- If the area looks deformed, becomes very sensitive to the touch, or is causing you to move differently.