An estimated 75 percent of Americans have foot pain during their lifetime, the University of Maryland Medical Center says. While some foot pain is not serious, pain in the ankle and instep, or arch of the foot, is often a sign of a condition that requires medical treatment. Recognizing the warning signs will help you ease the pain and prevent further complications that may limit your mobility.
The instep of the foot is the middle, arched area of the foot between the toes and ankle. Your ankle, composed of ligaments, muscles, tendons and bones, is the joint connecting your foot and leg.
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The most common cause of ankle pain is ankle sprain or injury that causes the ankle ligament to tear or stretch, MedlinePlus.com and the MayoClinic.com say Additional causes include a broken ankle, arthritis, inflammation of the Achille's tendon, stress fractures or cracks in bones in the feet from repetitive force or overuse, strains, and tarsal tunnel syndrome — compression or squeezing of the nerve running from the ankle to the foot, the MayoClinic.com and the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society say. Ankle pain may also originate from two conditions that are common sources of instep pain — abnormally high arches, or flat feet, a condition in which the arch of the foot collapses so that the foot is flat against the ground, the University of Maryland Medical Center notes.
Instep pain may also arise from wearing away of joint cartilage due to arthritis, a sprain or fracture from a fall, injury or accident, or a stress fracture, the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society adds.
As you age, your feet become wider and flatter, causing the arch to mildly subside, increasing your risk of instep or ankle pain, the University of Maryland Medical Center says. At greater risk are women who wear high-heel shoes that increase the risk of ankle sprains and other foot conditions, says FootHealthFacts.org, the consumer website of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons. People with a family history of arthritis and those in jobs that involve a lot of walking or standing are at higher risk of arthritis of the ankle and flat feet. Similarly, the added pressure of weight gain increases the likelihood of foot and ankle injuries, the Center adds.
The American Podiatric Medical Association recommends resting your foot or ankle, placing ice on the injured area, applying a compressive bandage around the area for support and elevating your leg to reduce swelling and pain. References If medical treatment is required, your doctor may suggest a shoe insert for arch support, exercises to strengthen muscles and ligaments, anti-inflammatory medications or, in severe cases, surgery.
Wear comfortable shoes that fit properly to prevent foot and ankle pain, the University of Maryland Medical Center advises. Shoes should be well cushioned, flexible at the ball of the foot and supported at the arch and heel, the Center recommends. Lose weight, if necessary, to reduce the added strain on your ankles, stretch muscles and tendons in the ankle and learn exercises to strengthen your feet, MedlinePlus.com adds.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.