The arch of the foot is formed by the tarsal and metatarsal bones and is strengthened by ligaments and tendons that enable the foot to correctly support the weight of the body. The underside of the foot is made up of four layers of muscle tissue as well as a length of thick connective tissue called the plantar fascia, which supports the arch. If the surrounding muscles weaken, the plantar fascia will drop and the arch will collapse. If the arch collapses, the whole foot touches the ground, which is known as pes planus or flat feet. Flat feet affect about 15 per cent of Britons. Although usually genetic, the condition may be exacerbated or triggered by poorly fitted shoes or conditions such as arthritis and pregnancy, when sudden changes in shape and weight can alter the body's centre of gravity leading to a weakening of the arches.
The arches are the primary structures of the body that absorb and return force to and from the body to the outside world when we are on our feet. When something happens to these structures, pain and injury may result. There can be many causes of arch pain. Direct force trauma, ligament sprains, muscle strains, poor biomechanical alignment,stress fractures, overuse, inflammatory arthritis or the tightness or lack of tightness of the joints in the foot may all cause pain in the arch. Injury to the plantar fascia is a common cause of arch pain. The plantar fascia is the thick, connective tissue which supports the arch on the bottom of the foot. It runs from the calcaneus (heel) forwards to the heads of the metatarsals. When the plantar fascia is damaged, the resulting inflammatory response may become a source of arch pain.
Pain in arch of foot is really the only symptom of this condition. It is unlikely to see any swelling or bruising and instead there will be a deep tender spot near the heel. Occasionally the pain may radiate further down the foot. With this condition, pain will usually be felt first thing in the morning or after periods of sitting. This is because the plantar fascia tightens and shortens slightly when there is no weight on it and by standing on it it suddenly stretches and becomes painful. After a few steps it starts to loosen off and the pain may subside. If this is the same pattern of pain you experience it is quite likely you have plantar fasciits. Pain may also be felt when walking up stairs or standing on tip-toes (anything that stretches the fascia).
The diagnosis of high arch (cavus) foot deformity or Charcot Marie Tooth disease can be made by an orthopedic surgeon in the office. Evaluation includes a thorough history and physical examination as well as imaging studies such as X-rays. The orthopedic surgeon will look at the overall shape, flexibility, and strength of a patient?s foot and ankle to help determine the best treatment. Nerve tests may occasionally need to be performed to help confirm the diagnosis.
Non Surgical Treatment
Treatment must be directed to supporting the individual bones and joints which make up the arch, and to aid the arch in its job as a shock absorber. This in turn alleviates the arch pain, and prevents the further collapse of the arch. This is accomplished through the use of either a high quality arch support or custom-made orthotics. These devices support not only the arch, but each individual bone and joint which makes up the arch; and because of the space-age materials used in their construction, allow the arch to become a much more efficient shock absorber. This not only relieves the arch pain, but also prevents it from returning, and keeps the arch from collapsing further.
In rare cases, surgery may be needed if a child has flat feet caused by a problem they're born with (a congenital abnormality). The foot may need to be straightened or the bones may need to be separated if they're fused together. Painkillers and insoles are the first treatment options for flat feet that are caused by a joint problem, such as arthritis or a torn tendon. However, surgery may be recommended if the injury or condition is severely affecting your feet. Where flat feet are caused by a condition that affects the nervous system, special shoes, insoles, or supportive foot or leg braces may be needed. Again, in severe cases, an operation may be needed to straighten the feet.
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.
Achilles stretch. Stand with the ball of one foot on a stair. Reach for the step below with your heel until you feel a stretch in the arch of your foot. Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds and then relax. Repeat 3 times. Balance and reach exercises. Stand next to a chair with your injured leg farther from the chair. The chair will provide support if you need it. Stand on the foot of your injured leg and bend your knee slightly. Try to raise the arch of this foot while keeping your big toe on the floor. Keep your foot in this position. With the hand that is farther away from the chair, reach forward in front of you by bending at the waist. Avoid bending your knee any more as you do this. Repeat this 15 times. To make the exercise more challenging, reach farther in front of you. Do 2 sets of 15. While keeping your arch raised, reach the hand that is farther away from the chair across your body toward the chair. The farther you reach, the more challenging the exercise. Do 2 sets of 15. Towel pickup. With your heel on the ground, pick up a towel with your toes. Release. Repeat 10 to 20 times. When this gets easy, add more resistance by placing a book or small weight on the towel. Resisted ankle plantar flexion. Sit with your injured leg stretched out in front of you. Loop the tubing around the ball of your foot. Hold the ends of the tubing with both hands. Gently press the ball of your foot down and point your toes, stretching the tubing. Return to the starting position. Do 2 sets of 15. Resisted ankle dorsiflexion. Tie a knot in one end of the elastic tubing and shut the knot in a door. Tie a loop in the other end of the tubing and put the foot on your injured side through the loop so that the tubing goes around the top of the foot. Sit facing the door with your injured leg straight out in front of you. Move away from the door until there is tension in the tubing. Keeping your leg straight, pull the top of your foot toward your body, stretching the tubing. Slowly return to the starting position. Do 2 sets of 15. Heel raise. Stand behind a chair or counter with both feet flat on the floor. Using the chair or counter as a support, rise up onto your toes and hold for 5 seconds. Then slowly lower yourself down without holding onto the support. (It's OK to keep holding onto the support if you need to.) When this exercise becomes less painful, try doing this exercise while you are standing on the injured leg only. Repeat 15 times. Do 2 sets of 15. Rest 30 seconds between sets.