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Exercise & foot arch pain

Updated June 13, 2017

Athletes and active individuals may experience foot pain during training or exercise. Foot arch pain may indicate a serious injury. Consult a podiatrist to receive proper diagnosis and treatment. The cause of foot arch pain can range from poor shoes to a stress fracture. In either situation the prevention and treatment of foot arch pain is vital to the continuation of pain-free exercise.

External Causes

Several external variables during exercise may lead to foot arch pain. The joint and muscles that make up the arch of the foot act as shock absorbers during weight-bearing exercises. A sudden increase in exercise or intensity may lead to excessive stress on those joints and muscles. Exercise on hard or uneven surfaces such as pavement or hiking trails may also contribute to foot arch pain. To prevent pain, progress gradually in exercise to allow the body — including the foot — to adapt to increased demands.

Pes Planus and Pes Cavus

Poor foot structure increases the risk of foot arch pain. With pes planus, or flat feet, the foot overpronates or collapses during exercise such as walking or running. With pes cavus, or high arches, the foot is more rigid. Therefore, flat feet and high arches do not optimally absorb the shock during exercise. The excessive stress on the arch of the foot over time leads to pain. Wear properly fitted footwear and orthotics, and replace when worn or old to support the arches and keep feet healthy and pain free.

Plantar Fasciitis

The plantar fascia is tissue that covers the bottom of the foot to help support the arch. Plantar fasciitis is inflammation of the plantar fascia, which may develop due to repetitive high impact exercise. A symptom of plantar fasciitis is arch pain that is worse in the morning and during high impact exercises. According to the Ohio State University Medical Center, individuals with flat feet or high arches are at a higher risk of developing plantar fasciitis. Regular massages and stretching ensure flexibility, prevent adhesions, and promote healing.

Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

The tarsal tunnel is located just behind the arch on the inside of the foot and is where the posterior tibial nerve is located. When this tunnel becomes narrowed due flat feet or swelling the nerve becomes impinged. This impingement is referred to as tarsal tunnel syndrome and may cause radiating pain in the arch [See reference 3]. Exercise aggravates tarsal tunnel syndrome and surgery is usually required to stop impingement.

Tarsal Navicular Stress Fracture

Although absorbing shock or force is the main role of the arch, it still has limitations during exercise. If bones of the foot are not allowed adequate recovery a stress fracture may develop. According to Dr. Eric E. Coris in a January 2003 article in the "American Family Physician", the tarsal navicular bone of the foot arch is susceptible to stress fractures due to repetitive high impact exercise. Foot arch pain is a common symptom and is aggravated with activity. Include cross training and low impact exercise as part of workout routines to guarantee adequate recovery of muscles and bones.

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About the Author

Since 2007 Hannah Mich has written e-newsletters and been published in the "Missouri Journal of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance." She has a Bachelor of Science in exercise science from Truman State University and a Master of Education in applied kinesiology from the University of Minnesota.