A strain in the arch of the foot is likely to be a strain of the plantar fascia which forms the arch of the foot, or the abductor hallucis muscle which lies along the inside of the foot.
On this page:
- Plantar fascia strain
- Abductot hallucis strain
Plantar fascia strain
The plantar fascia, or arch ligament, is a band that runs from under the heel to the front of the foot. A strain or rupture to this is quite common which may cause a small lump to appear. A plantar fascia strain might result from one single traumatic incident, resulting in sudden pain, or may gradually occur over a period of time.
Plantar fascia strain symptoms
Symptoms of a plantar fascia strain include localised tenderness and pain over the plantar fascia, which runs under the foot from the heel to the forefoot. There may be a sudden sharp pain at the time of injury under the heel or arch of the foot. A nodule or lump may be present in the plantar fascia, which might indicate a partial rupture.
Treatment of a plantar fascia strain
Rest is important to allow the injury time to heal. It may be difficult to rest the foot so use crutches if needed to take the weight off the injured leg. Apply cold therapy as soon as possible and every 2-3 hours for 15 minutes at a time. Later this can be reduced as the acute phase passes, which will be 48 hours or more depending on the severity of the injury.
A sports injury professional can tape the arch of the foot to provide support. The simple plantar fascia taping technique significantly reduces the load on the fascia, aiding the healing process. They may also use electrotherapy such as ultrasound to reduce pain, swelling, and inflammation.
After the initial acute phase, sports massage may be beneficial in helping to restore the plantar fascia to its original condition and improving flexibility. If the fascia is allowed to tighten up then plantar fasciitis may come on as a possible secondary condition.
A full foot and ankle stretching and strengthening program are advisable to restore strength in the plantar fascia. Calf stretching exercises, as well as plantar fascia stretching, are important. If the fascia is very tight then wearing a plantar fasciitis night splint overnight can be useful. A plantar fascia strain injury usually heals well within two to three weeks.
Abductor hallucis strain
The abductor hallucis muscle lies along the inside of the foot and runs from the heel bone inserting onto the side of the big toe. An abductor hallucis strain will cause pain in the arch of the foot as the muscle supports it, and the foot may roll inwards. Relieving pressure from the foot by resting or doing a different activity will ease the foot pain and allow recovery.
The abductor hallucis muscle bends, abducts or moves sideways the big toe and supports the inside arch of the foot. Symptoms of a muscle strain include pain along the inside arch of the foot with more pain and tenderness when pressing into the sole of the foot along the length of the muscle. Many athletes with an abductor hallucis strain tend to overpronate where their feet roll in too much during the gait cycle.
Treatment of abductor hallucis strains
Rest is important. Continuing to train on an injured foot will only make the injury worse or delay the healing process. For a mild strain, it may only need a few days rest or change of training activity, for example, substituting running for cycling or swimming until the pain has gone.
Apply cold therapy or ice as soon as possible. Ice can be applied for 10 minutes every hour initially for the first few hours reducing frequency as pain and swelling go down to 2 or 3 times per day. Taping the arch of the foot can help reduce the stress on the injured muscle allowing the foot to rest more easily. If overpronation or other biomechanical factors are an issue then orthotic type insoles can help support the foot long-term
A doctor or sports injury professional can confirm the diagnosis and may prescribe anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen. Always check with a doctor before taking medication. Electrotherapy such as ultrasound can help with pain and inflammation and, after the initial acute stage, deep tissue sports massage may be of benefit. This may be after 48 hours or up to a week or more depending on how bad the muscle strain is.