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What Is Arch Pain?

The arch is a critical part of the foot. It is responsible for weight bearing, shock absorption, balance, and stability. Because of its important role, arch pain can be quite devastating.

Unfortunately, arch pain is a common concern. It refers to discomfort in the foot arch, the area of the foot that stretches from the base of your toes to your heel. Arch pain affects people of all ages and activity levels.

Depending on its cause, arch pain can lead to pain symptoms in the heel or ball of the foot. It may have diurnal patterns or vary in intensity with different activity levels.

Summary of Important Points

  • Arch pain is a common foot problem.
  • There are different causes of arch pain, including flat feet, high arches, plantar fasciitis, posterior tibial tendon dysfunction, etc.
  • Factors such as being overweight, aging, repetitive stress, and neurological conditions can predispose you to arch pain.
  • Your doctor will examine your foot physically to determine the location of the pain, severity of the problem, and any associated symptoms.
  • Arch pain is treatable using conservative approaches. Where this doesn’t suffice, surgery becomes an option.

Symptoms of Arch Pain

Arch pain manifests as discomfort in the arch of the foot. Depending on the cause, the pain can be burning, aching, sharp, shooting, or stabbing. Often, the pain description is indicative of the underlying cause.

Likewise, there may be inflammation along with the pain leading to warmth, redness, tenderness, and swelling in the region.

Causes and Risk Factors of Arch Pain

Anybody can have arch pain. However, the following factors can increase your chances of developing arch pain:

  • Advancing age Arch pain is more common in the elderly.
  • Overuse People who are often on their feet are more prone to arch pain.
  • Obesity Invariably, being obese means more weight is exerted through your arch to the floor. The constant pressure on your arch from being overweight increases your risk of arch pain.
  • Structure of foot People with high arches and flat feet are more prone to developing arch pain.

Aside from these factors, the following are possible causes of arch pain:

  • Neurological injury
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Abnormal pronation
  • Cavus foot

Conservative Treatments for Arch Pain

You don’t have to live with arch pain. When you refuse to address the underlying causes, pain and complications may set in. Luckily, regardless of the cause and the severity, arch pain responds well to conservative treatment. Here’s what each treatment method entails:

Pharmacological Treatment

Involves the use of over-the-counter drugs and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), which combat inflammation and relieve any pain in the foot.

Rest/Activity Modification

It may seem like a good idea to walk through the pain, but it isn’t. It will only worsen the condition. Instead, you should immediately get off your feet once you notice arch pain. Avoid any activities that place pressure on your feet. You also want to avoid any strenuous activity and allow room for healing.


Consider icing your foot for pain relief. Provided your skin sensation is intact and you don’t have cold allergies, you can apply ice to your foot for 10–15 minutes, twice a day.


This technique is useful if you suspect plantar fasciitis. You can perform a calf stretch to release every tight calf muscle. You can also stretch the plantar fascia by following these steps:

  • From a sitting position, place the affected foot on the thigh of the other leg and grab your toes.
  • Gently push the toes in the direction of the heels.
  • Hold for up to 5 minutes.
  • Repeat any time you have pain.

Use Proper Footwear

In the same way that footwear can worsen arch pain, proper footwear can relieve arch pain. As such, you should avoid footwear that provide minimal support to the heel and arch. These can aggravate arch pain and make the condition worse. Likewise, avoid walking barefoot as this can also worsen arch pain.


Custom-designed orthotics provide extra support and cushioning to the heel or ball of the foot. Therefore, you might want to consider getting a shoe insert or arch support to support the foot and reduce pain.

Casting and Immobilization

Placing the foot in a cast will help you stay off of the foot so that the arch pain can reduce.


The physiotherapist will roll out a sleuth of procedures, including massage techniques, exercise, soft tissue mobilization, and passive mobilization of the ankle.

Can Arch Pain Be Treated or Prevented Without Surgery?

As discussed earlier, arch pain can be mild, moderate, or severe. If the pain is caught and treated early while it is still mild, you can expect the pain to resolve within a few days or weeks without surgery.

However, if not managed early, surgery becomes the last resort. Surgical intervention for arch pain depends on the underlying cause. For example, in the case of flat feet, a flat foot reconstruction surgery may be necessary.

If handled properly, arch pain is completely curable. However, the recovery time will differ from person to person depending on the underlying cause and the speed of intervention. Generally, you can expect full recovery to take place between 3 and 12 months.

Should You See a Doctor for Arch Pain?

Arch pain may not be life-threatening, but it can still be debilitating and lead to far worse complications. You should see your doctor and start treatment if the arch pain persists for more than a few days or is not responding to the home remedies or conservative treatment.

Determining the cause is the first step toward finding the cure. A doctor will carry out a proper physical examination and determine the cause of the arch pain. Only then will it be possible to treat the arch pain properly.

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