Like flat feet, high arches may be present from birth, or caused by conditions such as stroke or Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease. Usually, high arches do not cause pain, although you may need custom orthotic cushions made for your shoes. Surgery may become necessary if your high arch foot becomes too painful or leads to arthritis or a stress fracture. Surgery may include reconstructing a ligament, fusing the hindfoot, shifting bones to better alignment, and transferring a tendon from one part of the foot to another.
A person with flat feet has greater load placed on the posterior tibial tendon which is the main tendon unit supporting up the arch of the foot. Throughout life, aging leads to decreased strength of muscles, tendons and ligaments. The blood supply diminishes to tendons with aging as arteries narrow. Heavier, obese patients have more weight on the arch and have greater narrowing of arteries due to atherosclerosis. In some people, the posterior tibial tendon finally gives out or tears. This is not a sudden event in most cases. Rather, it is a slow, gradual stretching followed by inflammation and degeneration of the tendon. Once the posterior tibial tendon stretches, the ligaments of the arch stretch and tear. The bones of the arch then move out of position with body weight pressing down from above. The foot rotates inward at the ankle in a movement called pronation. The arch appears collapsed, and the heel bone is tilted to the inside. The deformity can progress until the foot literally dislocates outward from under the ankle joint.
The muscle imbalance around the foot and ankle gives rise to a typical pattern of deformity in addition to the high arch (known as cavus). The bone under the big toe (called the first metatarsal) can become very prominent and the toes can curl or clench like a fist (called claw toes). Excessive amount of weight may be placed on the ball and heel of the foot, which can lead to the ankle weakening and giving way (this is referred to as ankle instability) and soreness. Calluses and sometimes stress fractures may occur where the foot is exposed to extra friction or pressure, such as on the outer (or lateral) border of the foot.
The diagnosis of high arch (cavus) foot deformity or Charcot Marie Tooth disease can be made by an orthopedic surgeon in the office. Evaluation includes a thorough history and physical examination as well as imaging studies such as X-rays. The orthopedic surgeon will look at the overall shape, flexibility, and strength of a patient?s foot and ankle to help determine the best treatment. Nerve tests may occasionally need to be performed to help confirm the diagnosis.
Non Surgical Treatment
Tight arches, overpronation and flat feet as well as tight calves all lead to inflammation of the connective tissue that forms this arch of your foot. This condition, plantar fasciitis, can be very painful, from your first step in the morning. Fortunately, treatment is easier than most. No operations, no fancy pulsed waves, no night splints necessary. Good arch supports? full length flexible (not hard) orthotics are key. Stretches of the calf relieve arch tightness as the heel bone acts like a fulcrum pulling back the arch tissues if too tight. Regularly perform the gastroc and soleus stretches that you learned at the gym. If lazy, buy "Pro-Stretch" on line which helps you stretch your calves easily. Use it often. You can't stretch too often, only too little. Finally, the magic cure is to roll a golf ball under the arch for half-hour once a day. (I know; a half-hour is a long time to perform one exercise, but that's what it takes. Once you master this exercise, it is easy to do while you work at your desk or are watching a half hour TV program.) This may hurt the first week. Keep going because by week two, after you go over the pain hump, the pain will be gone.
The main goal of surgery is to reduce pain and improve function. It may also reduce other injuries such as repeated ankle sprains and broken bones. Surgery may be considered if there is no relief with physical therapy, changes in shoewear and/or changes in activity. Some patients will also have tendon problems, ankle weakness and foot fractures. These patients may require other procedures to address related problems. If you have medical problems that make surgery unsafe, any infections or blood vessel disease, cavus foot surgery may not be appropriate. The surgical procedures involved with the correction of the cavus foot are varied. Theses may include correction of the bony deformity, ankle looseness and the muscle imbalances that cause the deformity. The goal is to provide a foot that evenly distributes weight along both inside and outside edges. A variety of incisions may be needed to perform the procedures related to the correction of the cavus foot.
Early in the treatment of arch pain, consideration needs to be given to the cause and strategies put in place to prevent it happening again. Advice should be sought on the adequacy of footwear. Stretching exercises should be continued long after the symptoms are gone. Foot orthoses should be used if structural imbalances are present. Activity levels and types of activities (occupational and sporting) need to be considered and modified accordingly.
Stretching your calf and Achilles tendon may also help as a tight Achilles can make your foot overpronate. To stretch your calf and Achilles tendon, step forwards with your left leg and bend it, with your right leg straight and both feet pointing forwards. Push your right heel into the ground while keeping your right leg straight; you should feel the stretch at the back of your right leg, below the knee. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat with the opposite leg. Repeat the stretch two to four times on each leg, and repeat the overall exercise three to four times a day.