The feet are marvelous structures consisting of one-quarter of all the bones in the body, along with 33 different joints and over 100 muscles and connective tissues (ligaments and tendons). Within the larger structure of the foot itself, there is the substructure we know as the arch. There are several conditions, some of which are concerned with structural abnormalities, which lead to arch pain. When this happens, it is important to find the care you need at Brook Valley Podiatry.
Arch Anatomy and Function
Foot arches are formed by ligaments, tendons, and the tarsal and metatarsal bones. Typically, when someone refers to a foot arch, he or she is referring to the medial longitudinal arch. This is the most prominent arch and it runs from the front to the back of the foot, along the inside edge.
There are two additional arches in each foot – the lateral longitudinal arch and the transverse arch. The lateral longitudinal arch runs in the same direction as the medial version, but is located on the outside edge of the foot. This particular arch is most visible in the feet of those who have cavus foot (high, rigid arches). The transverse arch, on the other hand, runs perpendicular to the other two, cuts across the midfoot, and is important in providing flexibility and support for the foot.
From an engineering perspective, arches are strong structural components. The ones in the feet are essential for allowing them to support bodyweight and the additional forces that are applied while moving. In addition to supporting weight, the medial longitudinal arch in particular uses the plantar fascia to absorb forces from ground contact while walking or running to reduce musculoskeletal wear and the risk of damage.
Causes of Arch Pain
Different factors can be at work when pain is present in an arch, including injury, structural imbalance, or even the common condition of plantar fasciitis. Injuries that cause issues are often related to the arch-related ligaments, tendons, and bones that have become weakened on account of overuse. In particular, posterior tibial tendon dysfunction (PTTD) is an injury that can result in a painful condition.
When we consider structural imbalance as the root cause of a pained arch, it will often be the matter of arches which are either too low (flatfoot) or too high (cavus foot). Structural abnormalities like these can have an effect on pronation – the biomechanical process of rotating the foot inwards with every step. Individuals who have flat feet tend to overpronate, while those with cavus arch are likely to supinate (under-pronate).
Treatment for a painful condition in the foot arches will depend on the root cause of the issue. In many cases, arch pain can be treated with the use of conservative measures. These can include rest, ice, custom orthotics, stretching regimens, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). In rare instances, a severe case of plantar fasciitis may require a surgical procedure for optimal relief, but our policy is to use nonsurgical methods whenever possible.
Preventing Painful Foot Arches
Avoiding pain in your arch starts with choosing the right footwear. Wearing high heel shoes can be harsh on the feet, so try to limit pumps and stilettos to occasional events instead of wearing them on a daily basis. If you have flat feet and are a runner or thinking about taking up running, pick up a pair of well-constructed shoes that are identified as being “motion control” models. This will help to prevent pain in the arch area that develops as a result of overpronation.