Pain or strain in your foot arches is a common sports injury and often linked to inflammation of the plantar fascia, the shock absorption ligament along the bottom of each foot. The pain can also highlight underlying issues to do with the structure of your arches.
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.
The primary symptom is pain or aching in the arch area. This can be accompanied by inflammation and tenderness. If the pain is caused by the plantar fascia, it is likely to be considerably more severe in the mornings due to the muscles being unused.
A professional therapist may use tinels test to diagnose tarsal tunnel syndrome. This involves tapping the nerve just behind the medial malleolus or bony bit of the ankle with a rubber hammer. Pain indicates a positive test. Sometimes it is initially mistaken for plantar fasciitis which also causes pain from the inside heel and throughout the arch of the foot. Neural symptoms (such as tingling or numbness) as well as the location of tenderness when touching the area should help to easily distinguish between the conditions.
Non Surgical Treatment
The adult acquired flatfoot is best treated early. There is no recommended home treatment other than the general avoidance of prolonged weightbearing in non-supportive footwear until the patient can be seen in the office of the foot and ankle specialist. In Stage I, the inflammation and tendon injury will respond to rest, protected ambulation in a cast, as well as anti-inflammatory therapy. Follow-up treatment with custom-molded foot orthoses and properly designed athletic or orthopedic footwear are critical to maintain stability of the foot and ankle after initial symptoms have been calmed. Once the tendon has been stretched, the foot will become deformed and visibly rolled into a pronated position at the ankle. Non-surgical treatment has a significantly lower chance of success. Total immobilization in a cast or Camwalker may calm down symptoms and arrest progression of the deformity in a smaller percentage of patients. Usually, long-term use of a brace known as an ankle foot orthosis is required to stop progression of the deformity without surgery.
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.