Out of sight, out of mind would be the attitude most people would have towards their feet. But laying way down there, beneath the entire body are two remarkably designed structures that have evolved to make us literally stand out from all other animals. Upright stance and walking enabled us to free up our hands and to develop our brains. Central to this accomplishment has been the arches of our feet.
The arch has been a building method employed by architects since ancient times due to its enormous strength. Forces opposing from each side of the arch meet in the middle to create a balanced and very stable construction. The foot arch is no different in this respect, but it also needs to be a mobile structure to propel us forward when walking. Hence, the bones of the arch are held together with elastic soft tissues. The arch therefore, expands to absorb our body weight when the foot lands, before recoiling to help spring us off into the next step.
Soft tissues of the arch include ligaments, that act like ropes and tie together adjacent bones, or span several bones of the arch. Muscles also extend beneath the arch providing a more active way of controlling the movements of the arch. In either case, these structures need to withstand enormous forces that act to flatten the arch as we walk, run and jump. When these forces exceed the soft tissue’s capabilities, arch pain is the result.
Increased activity levels, increased growth and body weight, increased age or an acute overload (such as jumping down from a height) can all result in trauma to the arches of our feet. Sometimes, the pain develops and becomes worse throughout the day as fatigue of the effected tissue sets in. Other times, arch pain presents worse on start up as stiff and sore structures get moving again. This occurs when getting out of bed or standing again after prolonged sitting. Both instances indicate that your arches need help.
A podiatrist is a health professional specialising in the management of arch pain. By obtaining a thorough history and physical examination of the feet, a podiatrist is able to accurately prescribe the most effective treatment of your arch pain. This may include the provision of orthoses (customised arch supports), advice on footwear and prescription of the most appropriate exercises to strengthen your arches.