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.Causes
Also known as pes planus, this is when the arch of the foot collapses completely dropping the whole sole of the foot down to the ground. Flat feet are a common cause of foot arch pain. Babies are born with flat feet and as they grow, the foot arches should gradually form, but in approximately 30% of the population, they never do. They can also develop later in life, due to illness, pregnancy, injury, excessive stress on the feet or as part of the aging process. Many people who have flat feet don?t complain of any accompanying symptoms, but some develop foot arch pain, or problems further up the leg such as knee pain or back pain. They may find their feet tire quickly when they are standing or walking, and that it is difficult to rise up onto their tiptoes. Someone who is experiencing pain on the bottom of the foot or elsewhere due to their flat feet can benefit from exercises and orthotics (specially designed insoles to correct the foot position) as well as walking barefoot rather than in shoes. A quick test to see if you have flat feet is to put your foot in a tray of water and then place it on a smooth level surface e.g. thick paper. Have a look at your footprint, the more of the sole of the foot that you can see, the flatter your foot.Symptoms
Go to a podiatrist at the first sign of symptoms. Besides pain on the bottom of the foot, additional symptoms may include burning sensation in arch, difficulty standing on tiptoes, inflammation, more pain after sleeping or resting, redness, heat, localized pain in the ball of the foot, sharp or shooting pain in the toes, pain that increases when toes are flexed, tingling or numbness in the toes, aching, pain that increases when walking barefoot, pain that increases when walking on hard surfaces, pain the increases when standing (putting weight on your feet) or moving around and decreases when immobile, skin Lesions, it?s important to get a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. Let?s go over the possible causes of the pain.Diagnosis
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) can show tendon injury and inflammation but cannot be relied on with 100% accuracy and confidence. The technique and skill of the radiologist in properly positioning the foot with the MRI beam are critical in demonstrating the sometimes obscure findings of tendon injury around the ankle. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is expensive and is not necessary in most cases to diagnose posterior tibial tendon injury. Ultrasound has also been used in some cases to diagnose tendon injury, but this test again is usually not required to make the initial diagnosis.Non Surgical Treatment
Flat feet in a child do not need treatment if they are not causing pain or walking problems. Your child's feet will grow and develop the same, whether special shoes, shoe inserts, heel cups, or wedges are used. Your child may walk barefoot, run or jump, or do any other activity without making the flat feet worse. In older children and adults, flexible flat feet that do not cause pain or walking problems do not need further treatment. If you have pain due to flexible flat feet, the following may help. An arch-support (orthotic) that you put in your shoe. You can buy this at the store or have it custom-made. Special shoes. Rigid or painful flat feet need to be checked by a health care provider. The treatment depends on the cause of the flat feet. For tarsal coalition, treatment starts with rest and possibly a cast. Surgery may be needed if pain does not improve. In more severe cases, surgery may be needed to clean or repair the tendon, fuse joints in the foot into a corrected position. Flat feet in older adults can be treated with pain relievers, orthotics, and sometimes surgery.Surgical Treatment
There are two types of bone procedure for flat feet, those where bone cuts and bone grafts are used to alter the alignment by avoiding any joint structures, or joint invasive procedures (called fusions or arthrodeses) that remove a joint to reshape the foot. With joint fusion procedures, there are those procedures that involve non-essential joints of the foot versus those that involve essential joints. All bone procedures have their place in flat foot surgery, and Dr. Blitz carefully evaluates each foot to preserve as much motion and function while obtaining proper and adequate alignment. In many cases a flat foot reconstruction involves both soft tissue procedures and bone procedures to rebuild and restore the arch. There are several joints in the arch of the foot that can collapse - and these joints are non-essential joints of the foot. This does not mean that they do not have a purpose, but rather become inefficient is providing a stable platform for function. As such, locking these non-essential non-functioning joints into place is commonly recommended. These joints are fused together with screws and/or plates. A heel bone that is no longer in proper position and pushed outwards away from the foot can be corrected with a bone cut and realignment procedure, so long as the displacement is not too significant. A benefit of this surgery is that it keeps the back portion of the foot mobile, and helps the surrounding tendons work for efficiently in maintaining the arch. In certain flat feet, the foot is deviated outwards and away from the midline of the body. Sometimes, this is due to the outer portion of the foot being shorter than the inner portion. Here bone graft can be added to the outer edge of the foot to lengthen the foot to swing the foot over into a corrected position. This procedure is most commonly performed in children and young adults. A bone graft is inserted into the top part of the arch to realign a component of the flat foot, medically known as forefoot varus or medial column elevatus. The back part of the foot (called the rearfoot complex) can be the cause (or source) of the flat foot or the simply affected by the flat foot foot. In simple terms, the back part of the foot can be made to flatten out due to arch problems - and vica versa for that matter. Dr. Blitz specifically identifies the cause of the flat foot as this will determine the best treatment plan, as each flat foot needs to be evaluated individually. The rearfoot is made up of three joints, and depending on the extent and most importantly the rigidity of these joints, they may require fusion to restore alignment. When all three joints require fusion - this call is a triple arthrodesis. For completeness, isolated fusion of any of the three joints can be performed (such as subtalar joint arthrodesis, talonavicular arthrodesis, and calcaneaocuboid joint arthrodesis). The medical decision making for isolated fusions is beyond the scope this article, but Dr. Blitz tries to avoid any rearfoot fusion for flexible feet because these are joints are essential joints of the foot, especially in younger people. Those in severe cases, it may be advantageous to provide re-alignment.Prevention
There are several things that you can do to prevent and treat arch pain. This includes Avoiding high heeled shoes, Stretching the calf muscles regularly, Wearing well fitted, comfortable shoes, Using customisedorthotic devices or shoe inserts, Elevating the feet and applying ice and taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications. You can also care for your feet by paying attention to any changes in your feet as you get older. It is normal for feet to lose some of their fat pads as a person ages. Your feet may get bigger, both wider and longer as well. Make sure that you wear shoes that are sturdy, but comfortable, and have your feet measured before you buy shoes to make sure that you are still wearing the right size. Shoe sizes vary from one brand to the next, so it is a good idea to have your feet measured every time you purchase shoes. When choosing shoes, match the shoe to the activity for which it will be worn. Within the broader grouping of athletic shoes, there are different categories with different features. For example, a running shoe has different features than a walking shoe. You may develop some arthritic changes in your feet over time, too. If you notice that you are experiencing more pain in your feet, see your doctor for an evaluation. If the pain is arthritis-related, your doctor may recommend medication or other treatment to slow the progression of the arthritis.Stretching Exercises
Try these simple stretches to assist with relieving pain in your arches. (Note: Stretch slowly and gently. You should feel a moderate pull on the muscle and tendon but no pain. If these stretches are painful, stop and seek further advice from a health professional). STRETCH ONE. Stand at arm?s length from a wall with one foot in front of the other, forward knee bent. Keeping your back leg straight and back heel on the floor, lean into the wall until you feel a stretch in your calf. STRETCH TWO. This time, bend your back leg slightly, and lean into the wall. You should feel a stretch in the lower part of your calf. Hold each stretch for 20 seconds and repeat on each leg, a few times daily.