Pain across the bottom of the foot at any point between the heel and the ball of the foot is often referred to as “arch pain.” Although this description is non-specific, most arch pain is due to strain or inflammation of the plantar fascia (a long ligament on the bottom of the foot). This condition is known as plantar fasciitis and is sometimes associated with a heel spur. In most cases, arch pain develops from overuse, unsupportive shoes, weight gain, or acute injury. If arch pain persists beyond a few days, see a foot and ankle surgeon for treatment to prevent this condition from becoming worse.
The most common cause of arch pain is plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis is inflammation of the fibrous band of tissue that connects the heel to the toes. Sufferers of plantar fasciitis typically feel pain early in the morning when they first get out of bed. Another common cause of arch pain is fallen arches or flat feet. Fallen arches result in the sole of the foot becoming flat so that the entire sole of the foot touches the ground. Fallen arches can lead to pain in the ankles, knees, feet, and even in the legs. While fallen arches are often inherited, for some it develops as a result of wear and tear on your feet. Wearing shoes without proper metatarsal support, or arch support, can overstretch the tendon that supports the arch causing the arch to flatten out.
The most common symptoms of plantar fasciitis include pain on the bottom of the foot near the heel, pain with the first few steps after getting out of bed in the morning, or after a long period of rest, such as after a long car ride. The pain subsides after a few minutes of walking. Greater pain after (not during) exercise or activity.
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
Cortisone, a type of steroid, is a powerful anti-inflammatory medication. It can be injected into the plantar fascia to reduce inflammation and pain. Your doctor may limit your injections. Multiple steroid injections can cause the plantar fascia to rupture (tear), which can lead to a flat foot and chronic pain. Supportive shoes and orthotics. Shoes with thick soles and extra cushioning can reduce pain with standing and walking. As you step and your heel strikes the ground, a significant amount of tension is placed on the fascia, which causes microtrauma (tiny tears in the tissue). A cushioned shoe or insert reduces this tension and the microtrauma that occurs with every step. Soft silicone heel pads are inexpensive and work by elevating and cushioning your heel. Pre-made or custom orthotics (shoe inserts) are also helpful. Most people sleep with their feet pointed down. This relaxes the plantar fascia and is one of the reasons for morning heel pain. A night splint stretches the plantar fascia while you sleep. Although it can be difficult to sleep with, a night splint is very effective and does not have to be used once the pain is gone. Your doctor may suggest that you work with a physical therapist on an exercise program that focuses on stretching your calf muscles and plantar fascia. In addition to exercises like the ones mentioned above, a physical therapy program may involve specialized ice treatments, massage, and medication to decrease inflammation around the plantar fascia. Extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT). During this procedure, high-energy shockwave impulses stimulate the healing process in damaged plantar fascia tissue. ESWT has not shown consistent results and, therefore, is not commonly performed. ESWT is noninvasive-it does not require a surgical incision. Because of the minimal risk involved, ESWT is sometimes tried before surgery is considered.
With flat feet, there is a tendon on the inside of the foot than can often become weakened, injured, split and/or ruptured. This tendon, is called the posterior tibial tendon, and is the main arch supporting tendon. Obviously damage to this tendon can cause collapse of the arch. Some people have genetically inefficient tendon, and tends to be the case in younger people. In mild cases, such as tendon splits, the posterior tibial tendon can be repaired to restore its strength. Acute incontinuity of the tendon can be primarily repaired. Often the posterior tibial tendon is augmented with a tendon transfer of an adjacent tendon to provide both strength and continuity. In any tendon repair, advanced or retensioning of the tendon is performed. In most flat foot surgery a tendon augmentation is often combined with other boney procedures to restore structure and balance to the foot.
Maintain a healthy weight, Use insoles to support your arches, Limit how often you wear high heels, Use proper shoes, especially when exercising to evenly distribute weight through your foot.