The arches in my feet hurt, what do I do?
A simple no nonsense summary of why your feet hurt and what you should do about it.
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As runners we are almost guaranteed to struggle with some form of injury at some point of our running careers. Some of us have recurring injuries like muscle strains while others have significantly more traumatizing injuries such as stress fractures or tendon ruptures. Regardless of the type of injury, it is almost inevitable that you will (touch wood) suffer a type of injury at some or other point in your life.
That being said, not all injuries and their subsequent prognosis are “made” equally. Some injuries are just far more common than others. And this category of injury more often than not revolves around some form of overuse or overtraining.
Overuse and overtraining can lead to multiple niggling injuries including arch pain. And that’s it, there is your answer. That’s the entire article.
Just kidding, you know we always give you guys a little more value than a 12 word statement. But jokes aside, arch pain is a very common yet very misunderstood condition. This is because it is so common and so straight forward that we as runners sort of brush it under the rug. We add it to our daily aches and pains list, vent about it to our significant others or to our believed training partners and off we go. We sort of just live with it.
However, every once in a blue moon our arch pain becomes a little harder to ignore. And what do we do? We asked Dr. Google M.D. of course! And I am willing to bet a pair of slightly used Sauconys that you stumbled across our article in a similar set of circumstances. Regardless of how you ended up here the important thing is that you did, because at the end of the day it means that you are now willing to give arch pain the time of day it deserves. And hopefully, we can help you find a permanent solution for your struggles.
What is the Arch in My Foot?
This might sound like a simple question to ask but the truth is our feet, your feet, are a very complex structure. So even though your question might be on the simpler side of things, the answer is not.
Your feet actually have three arches:
Now, yes technically these arches are known as the medial longitudinal arch, the lateral longitudinal arch and the anterior transverse arch of the foot. But we are trying to simplify this topic guys, so please don’t come at us in the comment section, okay?
As we were saying, your arches all contribute to your foot’s biomechanics and stability. Our feet are the foundation of our bodies and these arches are the structural specifications that make them work or in some cases don’t work.
Your arches are made up of your tarsal bones, the metatarsal bones, ligaments and tendons of your feet. Together they provide stability during loading and force absorption and force production during motion.
But What is Causing my Arch Pain?
But what is causing my arch pain?
However, we should note that arch pain is rarely ever caused by one singular issue in isolation. Now that doesn’t mean it can’t be caused by one underlying condition but it remains very rare. This is because of the amount of structures and tissues that make up our arches. Therefore arch pain is usually caused by a combination of underlying issues.
For example, plantar fasciitis is when your plantar fascia, a connective tissue band in your foot becomes inflamed due to micro damage usually stemming from overuse. On the other hand, the orientation of your feet such as high arches or overpronated feet could be caused by multiple underlying issues spanning multiple years. Throw in connective tissue problems caused by muscular imbalances or structural issues that potentially stem from developmental causes, you can quickly start to see how arch pain can have a rather complex cause.
So What are the Most Common Causes of Arch Pain ?
Now it wouldn’t be like us not to give you guys the easiest and clearest answer to your question. If you happened to skim through all of this article this is the one section we encourage you to stop and pay attention to, because here is where we are going to get straight to the point.
The most common causes of arch pain in runners are:
I bet you guys didn’t see that coming but yes these are in fact the most common and most straight forward causes of arch pain in runners. Why? Well because the other conditions are sort of arch pain adjacent.
Let me explain, the other conditions listed earlier in this article all present differently. Their main symptoms affect the heel, the calf area or the ankle area and the arch pain is sort of listed by association.
However, in the case of cavus feet posture or runners of an older demographic, the arch pain is the direct symptom in most cases and not just one of the symptoms experienced by runners.
Cavus feet or overly arched feet, cause arch pain due to the lack of shock absorption as a result of the foot maintaining the arch regardless of the force applied on it. And because of this increased rigidity, your arch ends up taking a pounding as your foot can’t effectively transfer the force and load to and from the ground.
On the other hand, age causes degeneration of the structures within the arches of your feet. Again, this degeneration leads to compromised biomechanics during running and ultimately leads to arch pain. This pain could be due to a lack of stability or a lack of fluidity within the arch.
In both cases, the arch pain can present as either a sharp shooting pain or a dull aching pain depending on the degree of tissue damage or compromised structures. But as with all our recommendations, please consult with your primary care physician or therapist in order to get a proper diagnosis. Especially if conservative treatment methods are proving ineffective.
So I Have Arch Pain, What Should I Do Now?
In the next installment we’re going to cover more practical scenarios of arch pain and the associated conditions linked with it. This includes discussions on flat feet, plantar fasciitis, overpronation and the different signs and symptoms that may present along with these conditions. We will also discuss some diagnosis and treatment methods, as well as some tips and tricks to help alleviate your pain.