Pain on the bottom of your foot is never easy to accept as it can be debilitating and a cause of anxiety. Although there are many factors that can contribute to discomfort on the bottom of your foot, the exact root of the problem can be hard to diagnose on your own.

The highest causes of arch pain–whether dull or sharp–is strain from overuse, unsupportive shoes, weight gain or acute injury. If you feel an intense, shooting pain on the bottom of your foot between the toes and heel it is most likely due to this condition. Even a burning sensation in that same middle section of your soles can be related to arch strain

Causes of Arch / feet pain

As you probably know, the curved, contoured area on the bottom of your feet, located between the ball of the foot and your heel, is called the arch of the foot. It consists primarily of fibrous tissues called ligaments that hold your foot bones together and connect the toes to the heel. Foot muscles and a tough tissue known as the plantar fascia are also located in the arch of the foot and assist in providing support to the foot.

Some people have high arches, while others have low arches — and both affect the way your feet and legs work when you’re walking and running. But it’s not just the shape of your arch that can affect regular body mechanics and cause pain. Check out this list of common arch pain causes below to help identify what’s leading to your foot pain:

1. Plantar Fasciitis

If you often feel a sharp, stabbing pain on the underside of your foot toward the heel, then you may have plantar fasciitis. The injury is characterized by pain and inflammation of the plantar fascia—the thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of your foot and connects the heel bone to the toes. It is mostly caused by extreme stress on the foot muscles which can come from wearing high heeled or uncomfortable shoes, being overweight, exercising too much, and certain foot abnormalities.

2. Plantar Fascia Tear

Although rarer and more extreme, a tear in the plantar fascia can also cause intense arch pain that becomes worse during physical activity. If your doctor determines you have torn or sprained your plantar fascia, you may have to have surgery and/or wear an immobilization boot or cast.

3. Flat Feet

Nearly one third of people in the United States are born with flat feet (a.k.a. fallen arches). The condition is characterized by a very low or non-existent arch in the foot that results in most of the sole of the foot to touch the ground. Sometimes the aging process results in flat feet as the tendons stretch and no longer pull together properly. Foot orthotics can usually reduce any arch pain associated flat feet.

4. High Arch Foot*

A high arch foot, or supinated foot, is another common foot deformity that can cause arch pain. The condition is characterized by the sole of the foot being unable to flatten while bearing weight, which can create pain in the arch of the foot as well as in the ankles, calves, knees and back.

5. Foot Injury

Sometimes foot injuries like sprains, bone fractures and bruises can lead to arch pain. An example would be stepping on something that damages the structure of the bottom of your foot or twisting the arch of your foot. If you have recently experienced a foot injury and have arch pain, you should visit your doctor or podiatrist to rule out a foot sprain, bruise, or bone fracture.

6. Neuromas

A neuroma is a swelling of the nerve that is typically caused by an injury, overuse of the feet or trauma. Sometimes called nerve tumours, the most common place for neuromas is in the ball of the foot. Symptoms associated with neuromas include burning pain and numbness in the toes, but in rare cases, patients can experience arch pain, as well. Common treatment for neuromas includes cortisone injections, orthotics, and surgery.

7. Arthritis

Arthritis is a disease that causes pain, swelling and inflammation of the joints. When arthritis affects a person’s feet, he or she often adjusts in walking style to avoid pain. This can put undue stress and pressure on different parts of the feet, which can then lead to arch pain.

8. Overuse

Sometimes arch pain is simply due to overuse of the foot, whether that be walking long distances, engaging in repetitive motion of the feet for an excessive amount of time, or exercising beyond one’s current abilities. Overuse can cause muscle and tendon fatigue as well as injuries like hairline fractures, all of which can lead to arch pain.

9. Callus, Bunion or Hammertoes

Though rare, certain foot conditions like bunions, hammertoes and calluses can cause pain in the arch of your foot. Each of these ailments can disrupt your normal gait and can also create pressure that irritates the arch and other areas of the foot. Calluses can be easily removed with just a few simple home remedies, while bunions and hammertoes may require orthotics to help ease the pain.

When To Seek Treatment For Arch/feet Pain

If your arch pain begins to interfere with your daily routine and activities, you should seek medical attention, especially if the arch of your foot looks discoloured or deformed (both of which are symptoms of an injury or bone fracture), is extremely sensitive to touch or is causing you to move and walk differently.

If none of the above conditions seem like the source of your foot pain, you may want to check to see if you have a very common foot condition called Achilles tendonitis. However, it’s best to see a podiatrist who can properly identify and advise you on the best treatment for your specific foot condition.

The good news is with a combination of education, decent footwear, rest, ice, lifestyle modifications and the right orthotic inserts, most people can expect fast initial relief from arch pain and eventual recovery from Plantar Fasciitis.