There are two arches in your foot. The longitudinal arch runs the length of your foot, and the transverse arch runs across the width of your foot. The arches are made up of ligaments, which keep the bones of your feet in place. Arch pain can occur in one or both arches but occurs most commonly in the longitudinal arch.
How does it occur?
Arch pain most often occurs as a result of overuse in activities such as running, hiking, walking, and jumping. People who have flat feet, or people whose feet flatten and roll inward when walking (a problem called over-pronation) are more prone to arch pain. Arch pain usually comes on slowly. However, it can occur suddenly if the ligaments are stretched or torn during a forceful activity such as sprinting or jumping.
What are the symptoms?
The symptom is pain along the arch of the foot.
How is it diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will examine your foot for pain and tenderness along the arch.
How is it treated?
To treat this condition:
- Put an ice pack, gel pack, or package of frozen vegetables, wrapped in a cloth on the area every 3 to 4 hours, for up to 20 minutes at a time.
- Raise your foot on a pillow when you sit or lie down.
- Take an anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen, or other medicine as directed by your provider. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) may cause stomach bleeding and other problems. These risks increase with age. Read the label and take as directed. Unless recommended by your healthcare provider, do not take for more than 10 days.
- Use an arch support or tape your arch as directed by your provider. Your healthcare provider may recommend shoe inserts, called orthotics. You can buy orthotics at a pharmacy or athletic shoe store or they can be custom-made.
How long will the effects last?
The length of recovery depends on many factors such as your age, health, and if you have had a previous arch injury. Recovery time also depends on the severity of the injury. You may recover from mild arch pain within a few days to a few weeks, while severe arch pain may take longer to recover.
When can I return to my normal activities?
Everyone recovers from an injury at a different rate. Return to your activities depends on how soon your arch recovers, not by how many days or weeks it has been since your injury has occurred. In general, the longer you have symptoms before you start treatment, the longer it will take to get better. The goal of rehabilitation is to return to your normal activities as soon as is safely possible. If you return too soon you may worsen your injury.
You may safely return to your normal activities when, starting from the top of the list and progressing to the end, each of the following is true:
- You have full range of motion in the injured foot compared to the uninjured foot.
- You have full strength of the injured foot compared to the uninjured foot.
- You can walk straight ahead without pain or limping.
How can I prevent arch pain?
Arch pain can be prevented by wearing shoes that fit properly and have proper arch support. Stretching your feet and arches before your activity will also help prevent this injury. You may need orthotics. Some people will need to wear orthotics all the time and others only during sporting activities.
Written by Pierre Rouzier, MD
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