Your arch, made up of your tarsals and metatarsals, bridges the area between your heel and the ball of the foot. The ball of the foot is formed where the metatarsals meet your toes. It creates the base area that you use to support your weight whenever you lift your heels off the ground, whether you?re walking, running, jumping, or just rising up on your toes. Conditions of these structures can make it very uncomfortable to walk.
The number one cause of arch pain is Plantar Fasciitis, and you'll be glad to know that more than 90% of cases of this painful condition can be resolved with simple, conservative at-home treatments. While extremely severe cases of Plantar Fasciitis may require cortisone injections or surgeries, most people can experience quick relief and eventual recovery with the right combination of non-invasive therapies.
The groups of muscles that support the arch can be divided into two groups. The muscles on the top of the arch start on the front lower leg and help to lift the arch, and the muscles that help pull the arch on the bottom of the foot are located the on back of the lower leg. Muscle injury may be indicated when pain is felt when the foot is fully extended, flexed, or turned in or out. Pain may also be felt when working the foot against resistance. Bruises are the result of a direct-force injury to the body. A bruise can occur to the foot by a variety of causes, such as having your foot stepped on or by stepping on a rock. The tissues that compose the arch do not provide that area of the body much protection. Blows to the foot that result in pain, discoloration, swelling, and changes in how you walk may indicate more serious damage.
In more difficult cases of plantar fasciitis you should see your foot health professional for a thorough examination. They will find out why your arch or heel pain occurred in the first place and devise a treatment plan to relieve your pain and prevent it from reoccurring. They will evaluate your feet, walking pattern (gait), shoes, activities, exercise methods, and other relevant information and then devise your treatment plan.
Non Surgical Treatment
Flat feet in a child do not need treatment if they are not causing pain or walking problems. Your child's feet will grow and develop the same, whether special shoes, shoe inserts, heel cups, or wedges are used. Your child may walk barefoot, run or jump, or do any other activity without making the flat feet worse. In older children and adults, flexible flat feet that do not cause pain or walking problems do not need further treatment. If you have pain due to flexible flat feet, the following may help. An arch-support (orthotic) that you put in your shoe. You can buy this at the store or have it custom-made. Special shoes. Rigid or painful flat feet need to be checked by a health care provider. The treatment depends on the cause of the flat feet. For tarsal coalition, treatment starts with rest and possibly a cast. Surgery may be needed if pain does not improve. In more severe cases, surgery may be needed to clean or repair the tendon, fuse joints in the foot into a corrected position. Flat feet in older adults can be treated with pain relievers, orthotics, and sometimes surgery.
Cavus foot is caused in part by an over-pull of one of the lateral ankle muscles. A release of this tendon can be performed on the outside of the ankle. Additionally, a transfer of this tendon can be performed to help in correcting deformity of the ankle joint. Often patients will have a tightness of their gastrocnemius muscle, one of the main muscles in the calf. This can increase the deformity or prevent a correction from working. It is addressed with a lengthening of a part of the calf muscle or Achilles tendon. This is often performed through one or more small cuts in the back of the leg or ankle. Finally, the plantar fascia may be tight. The plantar fascia is a cord-like structure that runs from the heel to the front part of the foot. Partial or complete plantar fascia release may be done.
The best way to prevent plantar fasciitis is to wear shoes that are well made and fit your feet. This is especially important when you exercise, walk a lot, or stand for a long time on hard surfaces. Get new athletic shoes before your old shoes stop supporting and cushioning your feet. You should also avoid repeated jarring to the heel. Maintain a healthy weight. Stretch when you feel a tightening of the ligament that runs along the bottom of your foot. Stop impact sports when symptoms first occur.
Gastroc stretch. Stand on the edge of a step. Rise slowly on your toes. Lower yourself slowly as far as you can until you feel a stretch in your calf. Don?t roll your foot inward or outward. Hold for 1-2 seconds. Reps:10-20 (stop before you fatigue). Soleus stretch. Same as above, but start with your knee bent so that you feel a slight stretch in your calf or achilles. Maintain the angle of your knee throughout the stretch. Bicycle stretch. Lie on your side. Keeping your top leg straight, bring your knee toward your nose until you feel a slight stretch in the hamstring. Maintaining this angle at your hip, start pretending you are pedalling a bicycle with the top leg. Make sure you feel a slight stretch each time your knee is straight. Reps: 10-30 for each leg. If you feel any pops or clicks in your hip or back, try raising the top leg a little (making the thighs further apart) to eliminate the popping. Foot Intrinsic Exercises. Assisted metatarsal head raising. Sit in a chair. Find the bumps at the ball of your foot just before your big toe and just before the little toe. These are the first (big toe) and fifth (little toe) metatarsal heads. Place your second and third fingers from one hand under the first metatarsal head, and the second and third fingers from the other hand under the fifth metatarsal head. Now lay the thumbs from each hand in a diagonal across your toes so that they form a right angle meeting at the nail of the second toe. Your hands are now in position to assist your toes. Keep your toes straight, with the toe pads on the floor. Use your fingers to help raise all the metatarsal heads (the ball of your foot). Do not let your toes curl under keep them long. Now relax. Reps 7-10 for each foot. As this exercise gets easier, let your fingers do less of the work until your toes can do the exercise unassisted. This can take up to three weeks. When your strength has improved to this point, you can progress to the following three exercises, which are best done in stocking feet on a slippery floor. Active metatarsal head raising. Stand with your weight on both feet. Raise your metatarsal heads (the ball of your foot) while keeping your toes from curling under and maintaining your heel on the ground. Relax. Reps 6-7. Do one foot at a time. If you do more reps than you are ready for, you may well develop cramping in your foot. I once had a client who thought if seven reps were good, 10 were better. For good measure, she did the 10 reps 10 times in a day, and then she was unable to walk the next day from having used a set of muscles she had never exercised before. Don?t overdo it.