Foot Arch Pain

Written By: Chloe Wilson BSc(Hons) Physiotherapy
Reviewed By: FPE Medical Review Board

Foot Arch Pain: Causes, symptoms and treatment options for the most common causes of pain on bottom of foot

Foot arch pain is a common problem, largely due to the amount of pressure going through our feet, especially if you are on your feet a lot.

This is because the muscles and tendons that support the foot arches have to work hard to stabilise the foot and can quickly fatigue resulting in pain on the bottom of the foot.

Weakness and tightness in the foot muscles changes how the forces go through the feet and up the legs so foot arch pain is often associated with back and knee pain too.

So let's look at the most common causes of pain under the feet.

Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar Fascitis: Learn about the common causes, symptoms and treatment options of this common cause of foot arch pain

Most common cause of foot arch pain with damage to the thick band under the foot. Often accompanied by bone spurs

Cause: Long periods on feet, sudden increases in activity, altered foot biomechanics, muscle tightness

Symptoms: Foot arch pain near heel, worse in A.M. and with initial movement that gradually improves then gets worse again

Full Article: Plantar Fasciitis

Foot Cramps

Foot Cramps: A common cause of pain in the arch of the foot and in toes. Learn about the causes, symptoms, treatment options and how to prevent foot cramps

Sudden, uncontrollable, intense muscle spasms lasting from seconds to hours. Affects 25% of people over 60, particularly at night

Cause: Dehydration, lack of vitamins & minerals, muscle tightness, fatigue, nerve damage, poor circulation

Symptoms: Sharp, intense toe or foot arch pain, muscle spasm, toe curling

Full Article: Foot Cramps

Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome: Find out about this common cause of foot arch pain

Pressure on the tibial nerve as it passes through the tarsal tunnel 

Cause: Anything occupying space in the tarsal tunnel e.g. bone spurs, swelling, cysts

Symptoms: Pain on bottom of foot, pins & needles, numbness

Full Article: Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

Plantar Fibromatosis

Foot Arch Pain - Plantar Fibromatosis: Common causes, symptoms, diagnosis & treatment options

Small nodules develop in the plantar fascia, usually in the middle of the foot arch

Cause: foot injuries, genetics, various medical conditions

Symptoms: Small, firm lump underneath the foot, toe curling, foot arch pain with pressure

Full Article: Plantar Fibromatosis

Posterior Tibial Tendonitis

Foot Arch Pain: Posterior Tibial Tendonitis. Causes, symptoms, diagnosis & treatment options

Inflammation and degeneration of tibialis posterior which supports the foot arches

Cause: High-impact overuse e.g. tennis or soccer, or injury e.g. a fall

Symptoms: Pain on bottom of foot and around the ankle, collapse of medial foot arch, inability to stand on tiptoes

Full Article: Posterior Tibial Tendonitis

Stress Fractures

Pain Under The Foot From Stress Fractures: Causes, symptoms, diagnosis & treatment options. Often the result of over-training

Tiny breaks in one or more of the foot bones. Often develop when suddenly increasing training levels

Cause: Repetitive overloading from high-impact activities e.g. running & jumping

Symptoms: Localised foot pain around the site of the stress fracture, bruising, swelling, difficulty walking

Full Article: Foot Stress Fractures

Flat Feet

The link between Foot Arch Pain and Flat Feet - which one comes first!?

Collapse of the foot arches so the sole of the foot drops down. Affects approx 30% of people

Cause: Pregnancy, injury, aging, excessive stress on feet

Symptoms: Fatigue in feet, difficulty rising onto tiptoes, foot arch pain, back and knee pain

Full Article: Coming Soon

Trench Foot

Trench Foot - the curse of festivals: Common causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment options and prevention strategies.

Tissue & nerve damage due to reduced blood flow to the feet aka Immersion Foot. Typically affects hikers, festival-goers & runners

Causes: Prolonged exposure to damp conditions, poor foot hygiene, sweaty feet

Symptoms: Swollen, white/grey foot, prickly pain under foot, numbness, pins and needles, blistering and possible gangrene

Full Article: Trench Foot

The Importance Of Footwear

It sounds simple but footwear plays an important role in how our feet feel.  Foot arch pain is often caused by ill-fitting shoes, especially ones with little arch support or that are too tight. 

Footwear is particularly important if you are going to be spending long periods on your feet or for sporting activities such as running.  Shoes should be supportive, comfortable, cushioned, provide the appropriate level of arch support and be the correct width. 

It can also help to go bare foot when you can to reduce the amount of pressure and friction through the feet.

What Are The Arches of The Foot?

Normal arches of the foot, the longitudinal arch and the transverse arch which work together to support the foot

There are twenty-six bones in the foot. 

The tarsal and metatarsal bones fit together in the middle of the foot and are supported by various ligaments, muscles and tendons to form the foot arches. 

The arches of the foot support the foot and control how the forces associated with activities like walking are transferred up and down the leg. 

There are two main arches in the foot, the longitudinal arch (indicated in pink on the diagram) which runs down the length of the foot , and the transverse arch (indicated in green) which runs across the width of the foot.

The longitudinal arch can be split into two:

  • Medial longitudinal arch - the higher of the two found in the inner side of the foot 
  • Lateral longitudinal arch -  found on the outer side of the foot

Anything which affects the position of the arches can lead to foot arch pain and discomfort on the bottom of the foot.

How Do You Treat Foot Arch Pain?

Treatment for foot arch pain will depend on what is causing the pain on the bottom of the foot. Typical treatment for foot arch pain include:

  • Ice: Regular use of ice packs, or placing a frozen bottle of water under your foot helps to reduce pain and swelling - 10 mins max per application
  • Orthotics: Special inserts for your shoes to correct foot position
  • Toe Stretchers: handy little devices to help stretch out the toes and the bottom of the feet
  • Foot Rollers: Simply roll your feet over these as you relax to ease your foot arch pain

You can find out more about specific treatment for each different cause of pain on the bottom of the foot by reading the full articles for each condition.

What Else Can Help?

If none of these is sound quite like your foot arch pain and you want some help working out what is wrong, visit the foot pain diagnosis section.

Alternatively, if you have other symptoms as well as pain, such as foot swelling, a rash or numbness, in the foot pain symptoms section we'll help you to identify what is going on and what you can do about it.

So don't let foot arch pain get you down, take back control today.

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Page Last Updated: 10/03/21
Next Review Due: 10/03/23