The arch of the foot is made from a complex series of bones tendons and ligaments. According to podiatric practice there is only one important arch of the foot on the medial side. The height of the arch varies and having a flat foot or high arched foot is inherited. The arch acts to dissipate forces and store energy within the foot. Most young children have flat feet and this is because the arch has fatty tissue overlying it. Normally an arch appears after the age of 5-6 years. Even if you remain flat footed this might be normal for you and your family. Just because the arch is low does not mean that any treatment is required. Many world class athletes have flat feet. If the arch is painful or the arch of one foot suddenly drops then investigation and treatment may be required. The arch might drop acutely due to a tear in a tendon or the movement of a bone within the arch. A scan and X Ray may be indicated and treatment ranging from insoles to surgery may be required. If you have a high arched foot this is likely to have been inherited. In extreme form this can cause pain in the ball of the foot and is often associated with a tight Achilles tendon and a tendency to walk on the outside of your foot. In most people there are no symptoms and in others there may pain along the arch and pain on the outside of your ankle. Both these foot types are often mild and require no treatment, but if symptoms occur a full bio-mechanical examination will often reveal a mechanical cause to your pain. Often the treatment may be simple stretches and orthoses.
Over-stretching or tearing the arch pad causes the dull ache that is associated with arch pain. Pain is most keenly felt when weight is put onto the foot, or when pushing off the foot into the next stride. The pain of foot arch strain can be particularly acute after sitting for a long time, or when getting up in the morning. Those most susceptible to the condition are people with very high, rigid arches. The injury is also common in middle-aged people who have been inactive for a long period of time before suddenly increasing their physical activity. The injury is particularly common in runners and joggers.
Flat feet don't usually cause problems, but they can put a strain on your muscles and ligaments (ligaments link two bones together at a joint). This may cause pain in your legs when you walk. If you have flat feet, you may experience pain in any of the following areas, the inside of your ankle, the arch of your foot, the outer side of your foot, the calf, the knee, hip or back, Some people with flat feet find that their weight is distributed unevenly, particularly if their foot rolls inwards too much (overpronates). If your foot overpronates, your shoes are likely to wear out quickly. Overpronation can also damage your ankle joint and Achilles tendon (the large tendon at the back of your ankle). See your GP if you or your child has flat feet and your feet are painful, even when wearing supportive, well-fitting shoes, shoes wear out very quickly, feet appear to be getting flatter, feet are weak, numb or stiff, Your GP may refer you to a podiatrist (foot specialist).
Your doctor may order imaging tests to help make sure your heel pain is caused by plantar fasciitis and not another problem. X-rays provide clear images of bones. They are useful in ruling out other causes of heel pain, such as fractures or arthritis. Heel spurs can be seen on an x-ray. Other imaging tests, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasound, are not routinely used to diagnose plantar fasciitis. They are rarely ordered. An MRI scan may be used if the heel pain is not relieved by initial treatment methods.
Non Surgical Treatment
Once the severity and cause of arch and foot pain is determined, a course of corrective and rehabilitative actions can be started. Therapists may use machines and manual therapies to reduce pain and increase circulation to the area to promote healing. Maintenance of fitness levels via modification of activity may be prescribed. Substitute activities that may aggravate the pain and soreness with other activities; for instance, running causes the body to have multiple impacts with the ground, but the use of bicycling, elliptical trainers, step machines, swimming, or ski machines eliminates impact and allows you to continue to maintain and improve your fitness levels. Take medications to help reduce pain and inflammation. Follow up with your doctor until you are better.
Surgery for flat feet is separated into three kinds: soft tissue procedures, bone cuts, and bone fusions. Depending on the severity of the flat foot, a person?s age, and whether or not the foot is stiff determines just how the foot can be fixed. In most cases a combination of procedures are performed. With flexible flat feet, surgery is geared at maintaining the motion of the foot and recreating the arch. Commonly this may involve tendon repairs along the inside of the foot to reinforce the main tendon that lifts the arch. When the bone collapse is significant, bone procedures are included to physically rebuild the arch, and realign the heel. The presence of bunions with flat feet is often contributing to the collapse and in most situations requires correction. With rigid flat feet, surgery is focused on restoring the shape of the foot through procedures that eliminate motion. In this case, motion does not exist pre-operatively, so realigning the foot is of utmost importance. The exception, are rigid flat feet due to tarsal coalition (fused segment of bone) in the back of the foot where freeing the blockage can restore function.
Early in the treatment of arch pain, consideration needs to be given to the cause and strategies put in place to prevent it happening again. Advice should be sought on the adequacy of footwear. Stretching exercises should be continued long after the symptoms are gone. Foot orthoses should be used if structural imbalances are present. Activity levels and types of activities (occupational and sporting) need to be considered and modified accordingly.
Massage therapy is a great way to loosen muscles and help improve mobility in in your feet. As many people with foot pain have discovered, tight muscles in your legs or back can lead to tense foot muscles. All those muscles are connected, so tension in your back can cause tension in your legs which can pull the tendons in your feet and cause stiffness and pain. Getting acupuncture or a professional full body massage are probably the best ways to deal with this, but there are also some simple tricks you can do at home to help keep muscles limber. These are great for loosening up and improving circulation, both before and after exercise. Place a tennis ball under the arch of your bare foot and roll it around, stretching the muscles in your foot and promoting blood flow. You can also roll the ball under your calves and upper legs to work out stiffness and knots. If you feel the tennis ball is too easy, try a lacrosse ball for deeper massaging. This is also demonstrated in the exercise video above. Use a foam roller, those big overpriced rolls of foam that are now available in every department and sporting goods store are fantastic for self-massage (why a roll of foam costs $30 is beyond us, but they do work wonders-our advice is to not waste money on the more expensive fancy grooved ones because even the simplest rollers work great). The exercises you can do with foam rollers seem to be endless, and there are literally hundreds of free videos online showing how to use them to massage every part of your body. Here's one we picked out that specifically targets foot and leg muscles related to arches and plantar fasciitis.