Lots of athletes with arch pain show up in my Houston podiatry practice. Feeling sore and tight in your arches is common after a run. Or a tough basketball or soccer game. Now, sometimes, you get arch pain with heel pain. And that’s usually a sign of plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of ligaments on the bottom of your feet. Other times, your arch and calf area will be sore. That could mean you're facing Achilles tendinitis. Still other times, the pain in your arch is because of your body structure. So, today, I’m focusing on all three problems.
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—or flat feet—that I see causing most of my patients' pain.
Why are flat feet such a problem? When your arch collapses, your posterior tibial tendon) takes on more of a burden. It starts taking over the responsibility of supporting 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 my arch pain patients 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 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. This could take the form of daily stretches, either to prevent OR respond to problems.
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. Spend a few minutes doing this. But don't go 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. Then, we create a device designed to support the unique shape of your body.
What is Plantar Fasciitis?
At the start of this post, we talked about arch pain with heel pain. If plantar fasciitis is the cause of your arch pain, this is what you need to know.
Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain. Your plantar fascia is a ligament that attaches to the bottom of your heel. It extends through the bottom of your foot. When you walk or run, it puts tension on that ligament. And it pulls on your heel, causing inflamation, heel pain and sometimes arch pain.
Plantar fasciitis causes a sharp, stabbing pain on the bottom of your heel. The pain is usually worse when you’ve rested for a while, letting your ligament tighten. That’s why plantar fasciitis pain is often worst when you first get out of bed. Or if you spend a lot of time sitting at your desk. We can address the heel and arch pain of plantar fasciitis. Just like the arch pain caused by your body's unique mechanics. But before we describe that process, let's explore the final cause of arch pain: tendinitis.
What is Achilles Tendinitis?
If you have arch pain and pain in the back of your heel, it could be Achilles tendonitis. The Achilles tendon is one of the strongest in your body. It runs down the back of your leg and into the back of your heel. Like your plantar fascia, your tendon is vulnerable to pulling every time you take a step. And that pulling can cause tendon inflammation. Which, once again, will be the source of your pain.
If I suspect Achilles tendonitis is the cause of your arch, calf and heel pain, I'll proceed carefully. Treating Achilles tendinitis is tricky. This tendon gets a limited blood supply, making healing more difficult. So we have to treat the condition early on. And choose our treatments with care to avoid making problems worse.
How Can I Treat my Arch Pain?
Sometimes, preventative measures and 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 stick it out on your couch. It could mean trying different forms of activity. Like swimming, one option I always love to recommend. My goal will be to help you stay fit 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 be a sign that you’ve sprained or fractured your foot. That's why, you should come in to see Houston podiatrist Dr. Andrew Schneider for any arch pain. This is the only way to safely rule out an acute injury. And to guarantee that choose the right treatment protocol for your arch pain.