Arch pain during running is often a combination of multiple factors: Lack of arch support, impaired muscular control of the lower extremity, a dysfunctional pronation pattern, impaired neural mobility, or even soft tissue tightness and trigger points in the posterior chain (back of the body) can contribute to your symptoms.
Arch pain can be very simple to address with an over-the-counter orthotic, shoe change, or massage. The best advice when it comes to choosing a shoe is finding one that is comfortable for you. Every foot is different, and you may need more or less arch support to improve your symptoms. If you have tried all of the “quick fix” options with no results, then these options may not address the root cause of your pain.
Focusing on mobility, strength, and neuromuscular control will be important next steps to improving arch pain. Some simple exercises to begin with: toe yoga and short foot exercises, single-leg balance maintaining your arch, and monster walks with resistance. You can also perform self-mobilization of the fascia and soft tissue by rolling your foot and leg on a lacrosse ball. Lastly, try to stretch out the bottom of your foot and calf muscles at the end of a run. Whatever you do, don’t forget the foot doesn’t act alone. Even though your symptoms are mainly arch pain, they may be coming from much higher up the kinetic chain.
If you have tried these interventions for two weeks with no improvement in the arch pain, you may require a more in-depth evaluation. Make sure that the healthcare professional you choose assesses your running gait, functional movement patterns, and soft tissue and joint restrictions in the foot, ankle, hips, and spine. The sooner you get help with your arch pain, the sooner you can get back out there and crush it.
Kate Mihevc Edwards PT, DPT, OCS, is the CEO and founder of Precision Performance & Physical Therapy in Atlanta, Georgia, the author of Racing Heart: A Runner’s Journey of Love, Loss and Perseverance, and a former runner and triathlete.