Arch pain occurs with an inflammation of the plantar arch or fascia. It is the thick membrane that covers and supports all the muscles of the sole of the foot from the heel bone to the base of the toes that is called plantar arch. When this membrane pulls excessively (constant strain), pain developes in the arch of the foot or heel.
Recent research has found a link with changes to the tendon in the foot and an increase in a type of protein called proteolytic enzyme. These enzymes can break down some areas of the tendon, weakening it and causing the foot arch to fall. Similar changes are also seen in other conditions, such as Achilles tendonitis. This could have important implications for treating flat feet because medication that specifically targets these enzymes could provide an alternative to surgery. However, further research is needed and this type of treatment is thought to be about 10 to 15 years away.
Flat feet don't usually cause problems, but they can put a strain on your muscles and ligaments (ligaments link two bones together at a joint). This may cause pain in your legs when you walk. If you have flat feet, you may experience pain in any of the following areas, the inside of your ankle, the arch of your foot, the outer side of your foot, the calf, the knee, hip or back, Some people with flat feet find that their weight is distributed unevenly, particularly if their foot rolls inwards too much (overpronates). If your foot overpronates, your shoes are likely to wear out quickly. Overpronation can also damage your ankle joint and Achilles tendon (the large tendon at the back of your ankle). See your GP if you or your child has flat feet and your feet are painful, even when wearing supportive, well-fitting shoes, shoes wear out very quickly, feet appear to be getting flatter, feet are weak, numb or stiff, Your GP may refer you to a podiatrist (foot specialist).
The diagnosis of high arch (cavus) foot deformity or Charcot Marie Tooth disease can be made by an orthopedic surgeon in the office. Evaluation includes a thorough history and physical examination as well as imaging studies such as X-rays. The orthopedic surgeon will look at the overall shape, flexibility, and strength of a patient?s foot and ankle to help determine the best treatment. Nerve tests may occasionally need to be performed to help confirm the diagnosis.
Non Surgical Treatment
For mild pain or aching, acetaminophen (Tylenol) or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as aspirin or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin and others) may be effective. When there are no symptoms, treatment is not needed. If a child older than age 3 develops symptoms, the doctor may prescribe a therapeutic shoe insert made from a mold of the child's foot or a corrective shoe. As an alternative, some doctors recommend store-bought arch supports. These appear to work as well as more expensive treatments in many children. With any conservative, nonsurgical treatment, the goal is to relieve pain by supporting the arch and correcting any imbalance in the mechanics of the foot. Surgery is typically offered as a last resort in people with significant pain that is resistant to other therapies.
In cases where cast immobilization, orthoses and shoe therapy have failed, surgery is the next alternative. The goal of surgery and non-surgical treatment is to eliminate pain, stop progression of the deformity and improve mobility of the patient. Opinions vary as to the best surgical treatment for adult acquired flatfoot. Procedures commonly used to correct the condition include tendon debridement, tendon transfers, osteotomies (cutting and repositioning of bone) and joint fusions.
Calf Raises. Strengthens the tendons in your heels and calf muscles, which support your arch. Raise up on the balls of your feet as high as possible. Slowly lower down. Do three sets of 10 reps. Progress to doing the raises on stairs (with heels hanging off), and then to single-leg raises. Step Stretch. Improves flexibility in your Achilles tendon and calf-when these areas become tight, the arch gets painfully overloaded. Stand at the edge of a step, toes on step, heels hanging off. Lower your heels down, past the step, then raise back up to the start position. Do three sets of 10 reps. Doming. Works the arch muscles and the tibialis posterior (in the calf and foot) to control excess pronation. While standing, press your toes downward into the ground while keeping the heel planted, so that your foot forms an arch (or dome). Release, and do three sets of 10 reps on each foot. Toe Spread and Squeeze. Targets the interossei muscles of the foot, which support the arch. While sitting, loop a small resistance band around your toes. Spread toes; release. Then place a toe separator (used at nail salons) in between toes. Squeeze toes in; release. Do three sets of 10 reps of each exercise on both feet. Towel Curls. Works the toe-flexor muscles that run along your arch to increase overall foot strength. Lay a small hand towel on the floor, and place one foot on the towel. Using just your toes, scrunch the towel toward you, hold, then slowly push the towel away from you back to start position. Do three sets of 10 reps on each foot.