Why Do My Arches Hurt?

From runners to basketball players and many in between, I see a lot of athletes with arch pain in my Houston podiatry practice. Sometimes, that arch pain is accompanied by heel pain—and that’s usually a sign of plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the ligament that runs along the bottom of your foot. But other times, the pain in your arch is a direct result of the way your body is built. And that’s the kind of pain I’m focusing on today.

What’s causing my arch pain?

There are a few different ways your own body can cause you to experience arch pain. If left unsupported, your high arches could start to feel achy. But it’s low arches—also known as flat feet—that I see causing more of my patients to experience pain. 

Why are flat feet such a problem? When your arch collapses, the tendon that attaches your calf to your inner foot (posterior tibial tendon) takes on more of a burden, taking over the responsibility to support your foot. Over time, the tendon gets overworked and inflamed—and that hurts!  

While your body’s mechanics can start you on the path to foot pain, there are steps you can take to prevent this symptom. But there are also things you might do to make it worse. Many of the patients I see for arch pain are running too fast or too long; they may be running in worn out sneakers or on hard surfaces like concrete. Sometimes, even walking barefoot in the comfort of your own home can take a toll on your arch. So now you know what not to do…but are there ways to keep arch pain at bay? Well, of course there are! Otherwise, I wouldn’t be writing this post now, would I?

Top Tips for Preventing Arch Pain

One of the best ways to prevent arch pain—regardless of your arch height—is to give your feet some TLC in the form of daily stretches (please note: this can be a preventative OR a responsive measure.)

One of my favorite stretches to relieve arch pain? Super simple: take a seat and grab that big toe, pulling it back until you’re too uncomfortable to keep going.  Hold the position for at least 10 seconds, and repeat 10 times in a row. Trying sneaking a few sets in throughout your day, every day. You can also keep a water bottle in the freezer; at the end of your day, grab the bottle and roll it under your arches, back and forth, for a few minutes (but not for too long, especially if you’re rolling in bare feet.)

Another great way to counter biomechanical arch pain is with custom orthotics. We take a mold of your foot, right here in the office, and create a device specifically designed to support the unique shape of your body.

How Can I Treat my Arch Pain?

Sometimes, the preventative measures we just discussed—plus a healthy dose of over-the-counter anti-inflammatories—will get rid of your arch pain. But if these methods don’t work, we may need to talk about revising your athletic training schedule, at least until you see an improvement in your pain levels.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you’ll need to take up residence on your couch. It just might mean trying different forms of activity: swimming is one option I always love to recommend. The goal will be to help you maintain your current fitness levels without putting more pressure on your arches. This should give you the best chance of a full recovery.

Of course, I need to end this post with one word of warning. Sometimes, pain in your arches is a sign of something more serious; it could indicate that you’ve sprained or fractured your foot. For this reason, I’d like you to see your podiatrist when you first notice pain in your arches. This is the only way to safely rule out an acute injury and properly target your treatment protocol.

Dr. Andrew Schneider
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Dr. Andrew Schneider is a podiatrist and foot surgeon at Tanglewood Foot Specialists in Houston, TX.