The arch of your foot is composed of tarsal and metatarsal bones, along with tendons ligaments. Your arch runs along the bottom of your foot, and it bears the weight of your body. Also, your arches stabilize your body for walking, running, and standing. When any of the bones, tendons or ligaments are injured or weakened from wear and tear, overuse or last activity, you may experience foot arch pain.
Many factors can cause arch pain. This common foot condition can be treated easily. If you are experiencing severe and persistent pain, make an appointment with your foot doctor for accurate diagnosis and correct treatment.
10 Common Causes of Foot Arch Pain
1. Plantar Fasciitis
One of the most common causes of heel pain, plantar fasciitis can also be a cause of foot arch pain. It is the inflammation of plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue that connects the heel bone to toes. This condition causes sharp, stabbing pain that is usually worse in the morning. The discomfort and pain may decrease, but return when you stand or after long hours of standing.
Plantar fasciitis is common among athletes, but it may also occur in people who wear ill-fitting shoes and those who are overweight. The common causes of plantar fasciitis include:
- Repetitive stretching and tearing of the plantar fascia
- Obese or overweight
- Very active job
- High arches or flat feet
- Tight Achilles tendons
The treatments for plantar fasciitis aim to reduce inflammation in the plantar fascia. Most people can recover with icing the area, resting, and stretching for a few months. Your doctor may also recommend you to wear night splints, and custom-fitted arch supports to alleviate the pain.
2. Fallen Arches or Flat Feet
You have flat feet or fallen arches when the arches of your feet are flat. It can be determined by making your feet wet and step on a dry surface. A usually painless condition, flat feet may develop from wear-and-tear or injury. It may also occur when the arches do not develop properly during childhood.
In some cases, fallen arches may contribute to foot arch pain, heel pain, knee pain, and ankle pain. It may worsen during physical activities and may result in swollen ankles.
If flat feet do not cause pain, no treatment is required. If you are experiencing pain, your doctor may recommend:
- Orthotic devices
- Supportive shoes
- Stretching exercises
- Physical therapy
It is best to avoid activities that may make your condition worse. You may also consider losing weight to reduce pressure on your feet.
3. Sprains of Ligaments
Each foot has 26 bones, and all are connected by ligaments. In addition to twisting, your ligaments can also be injured by landing improperly while running or walking. A sprain is a common injury that occurs due to stretching and tearing of ligaments.
Sprains of ligaments cause immediate pain right after an unusual movement of the foot. The area may also swell. In most cases, the condition will improve by resting, icing the area, compression, and elevation. However, surgery may be required in case of ruptured muscle or torn ligament.
4. Heel Spur
A heel spur is a bony-like growth (calcium deposit) that develops at the bottom of your heel bone. Detecting this condition can be difficult as some heel spurs do not cause any symptoms. When symptoms occur, it may include swelling and inflammation at the front of the heel. You may not see any changes around the area as heel spurs are often discovered through X-rays.
Heel spurs are common among athletes and may develop over time, mainly when early symptoms of pain in the area are ignored. The most common causes of heel spurs include jumping, running or walking on hard surfaces, being overweight, wearing ill-fitting shoes, bruising of the heel, and walking gait issues
Treatment options for mild cases of heel spurs are:
- Cold compress
- Over-the-counter pain medications, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), aspirin or acetaminophen (Tylenol)
- Orthotic shoe inserts
- Injections of anti-inflammatory medications
- Stretching exercises and physical therapy
Your podiatrist or orthopedic surgeon may also recommend surgery to remove the heel spur, which will improve your foot’s mobility.
5. Stress Fractures
Stress fractures are small cracks in a bone caused by overuse or repetitive force. This condition may also occur when the bone is weakened due to a health condition, such as osteoporosis. Stress fractures are common among athletes, military recruits, and people who carry heavy objects.
The pain and discomfort caused by stress fractures worsen with time. See your doctor immediately if the pain persists even at rest. Your doctor can diagnose the problem with a physical exam and your medical history. Imaging tests may also be necessary for proper diagnoses, such as bone scan, X-rays, and magnetic resonance imaging.
It may take several months or longer for the bone to heal. You might need to wear a brace or use crutches to reduce pressure on the bone. To speed up the healing process, take a lot of rest and stay off the affected area. Avoid activities that put weight on your feet.
6. Achilles Tendinitis
Another possible cause of foot arch pain is Achilles tendinitis. This foot condition occurs when the Achilles tendon, a band of tissue that runs at the back of your lower leg to the heel bone, is inflamed or injured due to intense or repetitive strain.
The most common causes of Achilles tendinitis include:
- Wearing ill-fitting shoes when exercising or running
- Not warming up before working out
- Running on uneven or hard surfaces
- Calf muscle has little flexibility or injured
- Increasing exercises intensity level quickly
- Sudden strong physical activity
In addition to pain that worsens over time, you may also experience other symptoms like:
- Pain in the Achilles tendon when running or climbing stairs
- Stiff or weak lower leg
- Swelling and bump formation
- Achilles tendon creaks when moved or touched
Some symptoms are similar to other medical conditions. It is best to make an appointment with your doctor for accurate diagnosis and proper treatment. In the meanwhile, you can apply ice packs on the affected area. Rest and elevate the foot to alleviate swelling.
7. Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome
Tarsal tunnel syndrome is a foot condition that occurs when the posterior tibial nerve is damaged due to repeated pressure. The tibial nerve is found near your ankle and runs through the tarsal tunnel. People with this condition may experience numbness, pain or tingling sensation in the ankle or sole. The main symptoms include:
- Pins and needles
- Sharp, shooting pains
- A burning sensation
- Electric shock
The common causes of tarsal tunnel syndrome include:
- Flat feet
- Small bony growths in the tarsal tunnel
- Arthritis or diabetes
- Injuries or trauma
- Varicose veins
- Masses and lesions near the tibial nerve
You can treat Tarsal tunnel syndrome with resting, icing, compression, and elevation. Your doctor may also prescribe anti-inflammatory medications to alleviate the inflammation. If your case is severe, surgery may be recommended to release the ligament and relieve the nerve.
8. Medial Calcaneal Nerve Entrapment
Medial calcaneal nerve entrapment and tarsal tunnel syndrome have similar symptoms. The pain radiates from the inside or medial side of your heel to the center of your heel. Extreme pressure or overpronation may cause the nerve to become entrapped. Strenuous activities such as running can make the condition worse.
Other symptoms of medial calcaneal nerve entrapment include:
- Acute pain from the medial malleolus or inside of the heel
- Radiating pain
- Tenderness around the affected area
- Burning or tingling sensation
- Positive in Tinel’s test
You can treat Medial calcaneal nerve entrapment with rest, cold compress, and anti-inflammatory medications. In case of overpronation, you will need to use orthotics and insoles. Rehabilitation program and physical therapy can restore the strength and flexibility of the ankle. If the pain is not relieved, a steroid injection may be prescribed by a specialist. In severe cases, a surgical procedure may be done to release the nerve.
9. Tibialis Posterior Tendinopathy
A common condition among athletes, tibialis posterior tendinopathy is caused by prolonged stretching of the ankle and foot into versions such as running on tight bends, speed skating and overpronation. The symptoms may include:
- Pain inside of the foot that radiates along the tendon
- Creaking sensation when the tendon moves
- Pain is worse with resisted inversion or passive version
To reduce pain and inflammation, apply cold compress on the affected areas for 10 minutes every hour. It is best to visit a doctor or sports injury professional for proper diagnosis. Your doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory medication and massage techniques to increase the flexibility of your muscles.
10. Abductor Hallucis Strain
The main function of the abductor hallucis muscle is to assist in pushing your body forward and stabilize the food. Located along the inside border of the foot, the strain may occur due to trauma to the area, wearing ill-fitting shoes, and overpronation.
Other signs and symptoms of abductor hallucis strain include:
- Pain and tenderness when touching or pressing the area around abductor hallucis muscle
- Foot arch pain
- Pain along the inside border of the heel
Visit your doctor for accurate diagnosis. The common treatments for this condition include rest, ice compress, taping the food, and orthotics. Your doctor may also prescribe anti-inflammatory medications and recommend physical therapy.
Natural Home Remedies for Foot Arch Pain
There are many options that you can do at home to reduce foot arch pain.
1. Hot and Cold Water Treatment
Hot water treatment will enhance blood circulation, and the cold treatment will alleviate inflammation.
- Fill a pail with bearable hot water and another with cold water. While sitting on a chair, soak your feet in hot water for about three minutes. Then, dip your feet in cold water for 10 seconds or one minute. Repeat this process three times, ending with cold water.
- You can also use a heating pad on the area then apply an ice compress alternatively.
2. Ice Compress
One of the best ways to reduce swelling and pain is ice compress. Just wrap some crushed ice in a thin cloth or small plastic bag. Apply it to the sore area and massage gently in circular motions. You can also use a bag of frozen vegetables to numb the affected area.
The cold temperature will provide you instant relief by numbing the nerve endings. Do not apply for more than 10 minutes at once as it may damage the nerves as well as your skin.
3. Essential Oils
Rosemary, peppermint, eucalyptus and other essential oils can help soothe sore and swelling feet.
- Add four drops each of rosemary and eucalyptus oil in hot water.
- Add two drops of peppermint oil.
- Soak your aching foot in the solution for 10 minutes to get relief.
4. Epsom Salt
Another effective remedy for foot arch pain is Epsom salt or magnesium sulfate crystals. It aids in accelerating the healing process of connective tissues and muscles.
- Put three tablespoons of Epsom salt in a bucket of warm water.
- Dip your foot in the solution for 15 minutes. You can also give the area a gentle massage to relieve pressure.
- Follow this treatment twice a day.
5. Foot Massage
Massaging your foot gently may provide relief from inflammation and pain. It will stimulate blood flow around the area and accelerate the healing process.
- Massage the lower area of your foot, heel, and legs with warm sesame, olive or coconut oil for about ten minutes. Repeat this treatment a few times a day.
- You may also consider using an electric massager to alleviate the pain.
6. Cayenne Pepper
The capsaicin in a cayenne pepper is known to relieve muscle strain, muscle ache, and foot arch pain.
- Add one-half teaspoon of cayenne pepper powder in a bucket of bearable hot water. Soak your feet in the solution for ten minutes. Follow this treatment a few times a day.
- You can also purchase an over-the-counter cream that contains capsaicin. Follow the instructions provided in the packaging.
There are many possible causes of foot arch pain, so it is best to visit a doctor who specializes in podiatry for accurate diagnosis and treatment. Because arches support your entire weight, it may affect other parts of your body, such as ankles, legs, knees, and back.
Avoid high-heeled footwear and choose proper-fitting shoes with arch support. Do not walk, run or exercise on hard surfaces and reduce the time you spend on your feet. Allow your feet to rest for several weeks or months and follow the advice of your podiatric physician.