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The 3 Arches of the Foot

Each of the three arches works together to absorb shock and provide support during movement, and any changes or issues with one arch can affect the function and stability of the entire foot. It’s important to seek medical attention if you experience any pain or discomfort in the feet, as these conditions can become chronic if left untreated.

Early treatment can help alleviate symptoms and prevent further complications.

Why is it Important to Be Aware of the 3 Arches of the Foot?

The 3 Arches of the Foot

It’s essential to be aware of the three arches of the foot because they play a critical role in the structure and function of the foot, and any changes or disruptions to one arch can affect the entire foot.

Each arch helps absorb shock, distribute weight, and maintain balance during movements such as walking, running, and jumping. Understanding the three arches can also help identify potential foot conditions and provide insight into the causes of foot pain or discomfort.

In addition, knowledge of the arches of the foot can inform the choice of footwear and help prevent injuries or alleviate symptoms of existing conditions. For example, shoes that provide adequate support for all three arches can help prevent pain or injury, while shoes that do not provide adequate support can increase the risk of developing conditions such as plantar fasciitis or flat feet.

Therefore, understanding the three arches of the foot is essential for maintaining foot health and preventing future problems.

#1 The Medial Longitudinal Arch

The medial arch, also known as the inner arch, is the highest and most prominent of the three. The medial arch is made of the bones, ligaments, and tendons in the foot, including the navicular, calcaneus, and talus bones, and the plantar fascia, a band of connective tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot. This arch helps absorb shock and provides stability during walking and running.

Disruptions or changes to the medial arch of the foot can lead to several foot conditions, including:

  • Plantar fasciitis: This is a common condition that causes pain in the heel and along the bottom of the foot, and is often caused by overuse or strain of the plantar fascia, which is a major component of the medial arch.
  • Arch pain: Pain in the medial arch can be caused by overuse or strain of the bones, ligaments, and tendons that make up the arch.
  • Flat feet (Pes Planus): Flat feet can occur when the arch collapses, which can lead to pain and instability in the foot and lower leg.
  • Posterior tibial tendon dysfunction (PTTD): This condition occurs when the posterior tibial tendon, which helps support the medial arch, becomes inflamed or damaged, leading to pain and instability.

#2 The Lateral Longitudinal Arch

The lateral arch, also known as the outer arch, is lower and less prominent than the medial arch and runs along the outside of the foot. The lateral arch is made up of the bones and soft tissues in the foot, including the cuboid, calcaneus, and fifth metatarsal bones. It helps distribute weight evenly across the foot and provides stability when walking and running. There are many advanced causes of lateral longitudinal arch pain, usually caused by high-impact activities, such as injuries from playing sports.

Disruptions or changes to the lateral arch of the foot can lead to several foot conditions, including

  • Peroneal tendonitis: This is a condition that occurs when the peroneal tendons, which run along the lateral arch, become inflamed or damaged, leading to pain and weakness in the foot and ankle.
  • Lateral ankle pain: Pain in the lateral ankle can be caused by overuse or strain of the bones and tendons that make up the lateral arch.
  • Supination: This is a condition where the foot tends to roll outwards, putting extra stress on the lateral arch and increasing the risk of pain and injury.
  • Lateral foot pain: Pain in the lateral part of the foot can be caused by conditions such as osteoarthritis, stress fractures, or nerve entrapment.

#3 The Anterior Transverse Arch

The transverse arch runs across the width of the foot, perpendicular to the other two arches, and is made up of the bones, ligaments, and tendons in the foot, including the cuneiform and metatarsal bones, and the interosseous ligaments. It helps stabilize the foot and maintain balance during movements such as walking or jumping.

Disruptions or changes to the transverse arch of the foot can lead to several foot conditions, including

  • Metatarsalgia: This is a condition that causes pain in the ball of the foot, often due to overuse or pressure on the bones in the transverse arch.
  • Morton’s neuroma: This is a condition where a nerve in the foot becomes inflamed, leading to pain and numbness in the toes.
  • Forefoot pain: Pain in the forefoot can be caused by conditions such as stress fractures, sesamoiditis, or bursitis.

How Can Custom Orthotics Support All 3 Arches?

The 3 Arches of the Foot

Custom orthotics are inserts designed to fit an individual’s feet and provide support for all three arches. Made from a mold of the patient’s feet, they allow for a perfect fit that can provide better support than over-the-counter inserts.

Custom orthotics work by helping to redistribute weight, absorb shock, and realign the foot, which can alleviate pain and prevent further damage. They can provide support to all three arches of the foot by

  • Supporting the medial arch: Custom orthotics can help prevent the collapse of the medial arch, a common cause of conditions such as plantar fasciitis and flat feet.
  • Supporting the lateral arch: Custom orthotics can help reduce overpronation, which can cause pain in the lateral arch and increase the risk of injury.
  • Supporting the transverse arch: Custom orthotics can help provide stability and support for the transverse arch, which can help reduce pain and discomfort in the ball of the foot.

Finding Treatment for All 3 Arches of the Foot

Each of the three arches plays a critical role in the structure and function of the foot, and any changes or disruptions to one arch can affect the entire foot. For example, flat feet, or a collapsing arch, can lead to pain and instability, while a high arch can put extra stress on the bones and joints in the foot.

By providing support for all three arches, custom orthotics can help prevent pain and injury, and can be especially helpful for individuals with foot conditions or for those prone to developing them. Bilt Labs has been in business making custom orthotics for over 25 years, so they have plenty of experience incorporating structure and support for all three arches of the foot into each design. You can take our free online analysis to help narrow down which type of orthotic will be best for you and the pain felt in any arch.