Pain across the bottom of the foot at any point between the heel and the ball of the foot is often referred to as "arch pain." Although this description is non-specific, most arch pain is due to strain or inflammation of the plantar fascia (a long ligament on the bottom of the foot). This condition is known as plantar fasciitis and is sometimes associated with a heel spur. In most cases, arch pain develops from overuse, unsupportive shoes, weight gain, or acute injury. If arch pain persists beyond a few days, see a foot and ankle surgeon for treatment to prevent this condition from becoming worse.
The arch of the foot is a very complex structure, consisting of multiple bones and ligaments. Most causes of arch pain are related to the anatomy of the arch and the types of physical activity that you perform. For example, a classic set up for arch pain is people who engage in lots of high impact exercise (such as running) while wearing a type of athletic shoe that does not properly support their type of foot arch.
Symptoms of plantar fasciitis may occur anywhere along the arch, but it is most common near its attachment to the heel bone. Symptoms of plantar fasciitis vary, but the classic symptom is pain after rest--when you first get out of bed in the morning, or when you get up after sitting down for a while during the day. This is known as "post-static dyskinesia." The pain usually diminishes after a few minutes of walking, sometimes even disappearing, but the pain is commonly felt again the longer you're on the foot. Fasciitis can be aggravated by shoes that lack appropriate support, especially in the arch area, and by the chronic irritation of long-periods of standing, especially on concrete, and by being overweight. Other factors which influence this condition are gender (females get this more than men), age (30s to 50s are most common), and those with flatter-than-normal feet. It doesn't help that fascia doesn't heal particularly quickly. This is because it has relatively poor circulation, which is why it's white in colour.
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
Initial treatment of the tear will focus on symptom relief. This may involve the use of anti-inflammatory medications, strapping of the toe, off-loading padding, altered footwear and activity modification. Following this treatment will focus on the underlying causes of the problem, such as flat feet, bunions and hammer toes. Your podiatrist will perform a thorough biomechanical assessment to determine the best course of action to offload the forefoot and decrease the mechanical stress on the area. This injury usually occurs gradually and is best treated in the early stages. Often a customised soft full length orthotic and footwear modifications can prevent the problem from progressing. Occasionally surgery needs to be performed, either frank repair of the plantar plate or in chronic cases a resection osteotomy may be suggested.
Patients with adult acquired flatfoot are advised to discuss thoroughly the benefits vs. risks of all surgical options. Most procedures have long-term recovery mandating that the correct procedure be utilized to give the best long-term benefit. Most flatfoot surgical procedures require six to twelve weeks of cast immobilization. Joint fusion procedures require eight weeks of non-weightbearing on the operated foot, meaning you will be on crutches for two months. The bottom line is: Make sure all of your non-surgical options have been covered before considering surgery. Your primary goals with any treatment are to eliminate pain and improve mobility. In many cases, with the properly designed foot orthosis or ankle brace, these goals can be achieved without surgical intervention.
Foot and ankle injuries are common in sports, especially running, tennis and soccer. But sports enthusiasts can decrease the risk of injury by taking some precautions. Lightly stretch or better yet, do a slow jog for two to three minutes to warm up the muscles. Don't force the stretch with a "bouncing motion." The amount of time spent on the activity should be increased gradually over a period of weeks to build both muscle strength and mobility. Cross training by participating in different activities can help build the muscles. People whose feet pronate or who have low arches should choose shoes that provide support in both the front of the shoe and under the arch. The heel and heel counter (back of the shoe) should be very stable. Those with a stiffer foot or high arches should choose shoes with more cushion and a softer platform. Use sport-specific shoes. Cross training shoes are an overall good choice; however, it is best to use shoes designed for the sport.
Stretching your calf and Achilles tendon may also help as a tight Achilles can make your foot overpronate. To stretch your calf and Achilles tendon, step forwards with your left leg and bend it, with your right leg straight and both feet pointing forwards. Push your right heel into the ground while keeping your right leg straight; you should feel the stretch at the back of your right leg, below the knee. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat with the opposite leg. Repeat the stretch two to four times on each leg, and repeat the overall exercise three to four times a day.