Did you know your foot is a complex, mechanical structure made up of 28 bones—nearly a quarter of all the bones in your entire body—plus 30 joints and more than a hundred muscles and ligaments. No wonder, the human foot anatomy is a marvel. It helps you walk, run, jump, climb, balance and more. And all of these actions require a high degree of stability.
The various parts of the foot work together to function like fine-tuned machinery that helps us in weight bearing and propulsion or moving forward. Our foot structure is a whole functional unit made up of the hind foot, mid foot and forefoot. The hindfoot forms the ankle and heel. The midfoot connects the hindfoot to the forefoot. The bones of hind foot (heel) and mid foot(arch) are connected to five metatarsal bones of the forefoot (metatarsal), which form the arch of the foot for shock absorption while walking or running.
When you look at the adult foot from the inside, you will see an upward curve in the middle of the foot. This is called an arch. The arch of the foot is an area along the bottom of the foot between the ball and the heel. The arch is made up of three separate arches that form a triangle, each arch is made up of bones, ligaments and tendons. Tendons are tight bands that attach at the heel and foot bones to form the arch. Several tendons in your foot and lower leg work together therefore to form the arches in your foot.
Purpose and importance of foot arch
On average, we walk 10000 steps daily, about 10,000,00 steps per year. The American Podiatric Association says an average person clocks about 120,000 kilometres by age 50. When we start walking, the arches will typically develop as the foot endures pressure from body weight. The purpose of the arch aids in maintaining balance in the body, and provides a spring to the step. Arches are generally strong, and this may help the feet to adjust to a variety of surfaces that we walk on.
Causes for pain in the foot arch
Pain in the arch of the foot can occur due to injury or structural issues. What we mean by structural problems in the foot are either high or low arches in the foot and surrounding area. These can be triggered due to overuse, weight gain, physical stress, even neurological conditions and ageing.
Flat Feet - One of the biggest issues faced by the population in India and globally is Pes Planus or Flat Feet. A flatfoot is a condition in which the arch of the foot is depressed and the sole of the foot is almost completely in contact with the ground. When the tendons all pull the proper amount, then your foot forms a moderate, normal arch. When tendons do not pull together properly, there is little or no arch. This is called flat foot or fallen arch. Having flat feet makes it difficult to run or walk because of the stress placed on the ankles.
If one has flat feet which can be of varying degrees it can lead to pain in the ankle and subsequently transfer to the knee or lower back. If you are wearing shoes, you can wear insoles with arch support to ensure your arches are in good shape as also it will support your feet. There are exercises available for maintaining your arches that can be followed with advice from your physiotherapist or foot health specialist.
High Arch or Cavus Foot - With high arches you have less surface area for absorbing impact and you place excessive pressure on your rearfoot and forefoot areas. This can make you susceptible to foot conditions such as heel pain, metatarsalgia, or plantar fasciitis. Insoles will relieve excessive pressure on the ball and heel of your foot by evenly distributing your body weight. That, in turn, will cushion the impact when you walk, run or jump.
Insoles for high arches also help to correct these irregularities. An insole's deep heel cup stabilizes your heel, concentrating the fatty pad underneath your heel bone and optimizing your foot's natural cushioning.
Metatarsalgia - A condition in which the ball of your foot becomes painful and inflamed. It is commonly associated with sports and active activities that involve running and jumping. There are other causes as well, including foot deformities and shoes that are too tight or too loose.
Plantar fasciitis - This is chronic inflammation and a common cause of heel pain. The plantar fascia is a ligament that connects the back of the foot to the front. Anyone can get plantar fasciitis, but activities such as running can increase the risk. In addition to arch pain, a person may feel stiffness in the heel or ball of their foot. People with plantar fasciitis may need to stop doing activities such as running to let the foot heal. They can also consider wearing support shoes or using inserts to help take pressure off the arch.