Overview

Many people have pain in the base of their foot. This could be due to overuse of one of many different structures in your foot. Common examples are sesamoiditis (inflammation of structures surrounding two small bones under the big toe joint) and plantar fasciitis (overuse of a ligament-like structure that runs underneath the length of the foot). Pain on standing first thing in the morning is a classic symptom of plantar fasciitis. It is one of the most common problems experienced by runners, accounting for about 10 per cent of running injuries. It is also common among middle-aged people, particularly if they are overweight. It often starts with low-grade pain in the arch or heel of the foot and can get worse over weeks or months.

Foot Arch Pain

Causes

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.

Symptoms

Arch pain may have a variety of different causes. Proper evaluation and diagnosis of arch pain is essential in planning treatment. A good general guideline is to compare the injured side to the uninjured side. Injury may present itself as a distinguishable lump, a gap felt at that location, or a “crunchy” feeling on that spot caused by inflammation. The type, causes, and severity of pain are also good indicators of the severity of the injury.

Diagnosis

A patient is asked to step with full body weight on the symptomatic foot, keeping the unaffected foot off the ground. The patient is then instructed to “raise up on the tip toes” of the affected foot. If the posterior tibial tendon has been attenuated or ruptured, the patient will be unable to lift the heel off the floor and rise onto the toes. In less severe cases, the patient will be able to rise on the toes, but the heel will not be noted to invert as it normally does when we rise onto the toes. X-rays can be helpful but are not diagnostic of the adult acquired flatfoot. Both feet, the symptomatic and asymptomatic – will demonstrate a flatfoot deformity on x-ray. Careful observation may show a greater severity of deformity on the affected side.

Non Surgical Treatment

There is considerable debate about the best treatment option for plantar fasciitis. Some authors suggest all of the ‘mainstream’ methods of treatment don’t actually help at all and can actually make the symptoms worse! However, on the whole, there are several of the most commonly cited treatment options for plantar fasciitis and these are generally accepted throughout the medical community. I would recommend giving these options a try if you haven’t already. Rest. This is mainly applicable to the sports people as rest is possible treatment. (For those who cannot rest e.g. people who work on their feet – skip to the other treatment options below). Rest until it is not painful. This is made more difficult as people need to use their feet to perform daily activities but certainly stop sporting activities that are likely to be putting the fascia under excessive stress. Perform Self Micro-Massage (you can watch this video by clicking the link or scrolling further down the page as it’s embedded on this lens!) This massage technique is used to break down fibrous tissue and also to stimulate blood flow to the area, both of which encourage healing and reduce pain. There is also a potentially soothing effect on nerve endings which will contribute to pain relief. Ice Therapy. Particularly useful after spending periods on your feet to reduce the inflammation. Wrap some ice or a bag of frozen peas in a towel and hold against the foot for up to 10 minutes. Repeat until symptoms have resolved. Heat Therapy. Heat therapy can be used (not after activity) to improve blood flow to the area to encourage healing. A heat pack of hot water bottle can be used. 10 minutes is ideal. Careful not to burn yourself! A good taping technique. By taping the foot in a certain way you can limit the movement in the foot and prevent the fascia from over-stretching and gives it a chance to rest and heal. Click on the link for more information on taping techniques. Weight Management. If you are over-weight, any weight you can loose will help to ease the burden on your sore feet and plantar fascia. Orthotic devices (often mis-spelled orthodic) are special insoles that can be used to limit over-pronation (discussed earlier) and control foot function. By preventing the arches flattening excessively, the plantar fascia is not over-stretched to the same extent and this should help with the symptoms and encourage healing. Stretching the calf muscles (again, click this link or scroll to the bottom of the page to watch the embedded video) can help to lengthen these muscles and the Achilles tendon – a risk factor for plantar fasciitis. Stretching of the plantar fascia itself is also encouraged, particularly before getting up the morning (night splints can be used for this effect) and after periods of rest. This can be achieved by placing a towel or band under the ball of the foot and gently pulling upwards until a stretch is felt. Hold for about 15-20 seconds then rest briefly. Repeat 2-3 times. As you can see there are many different treatment options available. Try incorporating some of these in to your daily routine and see what works for you. Regardless of the method the main aim is to prevent the fascia from over-stretching! Medical professionals such as a Podiatrist may decide to make custom orthotics or try ultra-sound therapy. It is likely that anti-inflammatory medications will also be recommended. If you have tried the treatment options and your symptoms persist I’d recommend going to see a medical professional for further advice.

Pain In Arch

Surgical Treatment

The soft tissue surgeries usually would include a lengthening of the Achilles tendon, releasing of the plantar fascia as well as tendon transfers. These procedures are usually done in conjunction with bony procedures such as calcaneal osteotomies (to lower the heel bone and get it more under the leg itself), as well as metatarsal osteotomies. These procedures usually involve either cutting or fusion of the bones, and placement of fixation devices to allow the bones to heal. Healing time is usually at least 6-8 weeks and usually the patient must be non-weight bearing during the healing process. These types of surgical corrections are usually reserved for the more difficult, painful and deformed feet. They can require more surgeries down the line. These procedures are usually the last resort after all other modes of treatment have been exhausted (except in children where it is usually best to treat the deformity early). There are many different degrees of high arched feet and these procedures should be left for the more extreme cases. These cases usually require a very high degree of surgical skill and should only be done by those who frequently perform these types of cases.

Stretching Exercises

You may start exercising the muscles of your foot right away by gently stretching and strengthening them. Frozen can roll. Roll your bare injured foot back and forth from your heel to your mid-arch over a frozen juice can. Repeat for 3 to 5 minutes. This exercise is particularly helpful if it is done first thing in the morning. Towel stretch. Sit on a hard surface with your injured leg stretched out in front of you. Loop a towel around your toes and the ball of your foot and pull the towel toward your body keeping your leg straight. Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds and then relax. Repeat 3 times. Standing calf stretch. Stand facing a wall with your hands on the wall at about eye level. Keep your injured leg back with your heel on the floor. Keep the other leg forward with the knee bent. Turn your back foot slightly inward (as if you were pigeon-toed). Slowly lean into the wall until you feel a stretch in the back of your calf. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds. Return to the starting position. Repeat 3 times. Do this exercise several times each day. Seated plantar fascia stretch. Sit in a chair and cross the injured foot over the knee of your other leg. Place your fingers over the base of your toes and pull them back toward your shin until you feel a comfortable stretch in the arch of your foot. Hold 15 seconds and repeat 3 times. Plantar fascia massage. Sit in a chair and cross the injured foot over the knee of your other leg. Place your fingers over the base of the toes of your injured foot and pull your toes toward your shin until you feel a stretch in the arch of your foot. With your other hand, massage the bottom of your foot, moving from the heel toward your toes. Do this for 3 to 5 minutes. Start gently. Press harder on the bottom of your foot as you become able to tolerate more pressure.