Arch Pain Massage: Benefits, Tips, & Techniques To Try

Arch Pain Massage: Benefits, Tips, & Techniques To Try

Alicia Schultz Alicia Schultz
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When we walk, the arches of our feet absorb shock and add a spring to every step we take. But because they have so many muscles, tendons, and ligaments, they can be a hotspot for pain and inflammation.

One common reason for arch pain is plantar fasciitis, which runners are often all too familiar with. But sometimes, the root cause isn’t easy to pinpoint. The good news is that whether your arch pain is from standing at work, a recent jog around the block, or something else, a gentle foot massage could help.

Read on for a guide to arch pain massage, including the benefits, safety tips, and self-massage techniques to try.

Understanding the Arch Structure

The arch of the foot is made of many delicate muscles, tendons, and ligaments that keep your foot in alignment, all while adding bounce and elasticity to your steps. 

In the realm of foot health, the arch is broken up into three structures:

  • Medial arch: This is the inner arch of your foot that stays slightly off the ground. It’s made of your first three metatarsal bones — aka the long bones that connect to your big toe, index toe, and middle toe.
  • Lateral arch: This is the outer arch of your foot that rests on the ground when you stand. It involves two of the metatarsals that connect to your ring and pinky toe. 
  • Transverse arch: The transverse arch of the foot goes horizontally across the bottom of your foot. It’s made of the base of your metatarsals, along with four other small, internal foot bones.

All in all, there are more than 100 ligaments, muscles, and tendons that help your feet function — and dozens of these are involved in the arch. 

The Common Causes of Arch Pain

With all of the muscles and tendons in the foot, it’s no wonder that arch pain is such a common occurrence. Aside from overuse, some common causes include:

  • Overpronation. This happens when your weight distribution rolls toward your inner arch after your heel hits the ground. Over time, this can lead to flatter feet and arch pain. 
  • Plantar fasciitis. A notorious runner’s injury, plantar fasciitis happens when the band of tissue known as the plantar fascia becomes inflamed. The pain tends to be more concentrated toward the heel, but it can also be in the arch.
  • Other medical conditions, such as cavus foot, flat feet, or posterior tibial tendon dysfunction (PTTD).

When To See Your Doctor

Short-term arch pain can usually be chalked up to simple overuse or strain during a workout. But depending on your symptoms, it may be a good idea to see your doctor.

For example, if your pain lasts longer than a few days — or it frequently comes and goes over a long stretch of time — it’s important to make an appointment. Your doctor can help you target and treat the underlying cause, whether it’s due to an injury, walking mechanics, or something more complex.

What Are the Potential Benefits of Arch Pain Massage?

So, why try an arch pain massage? Along with being incredibly relaxing, it can bring benefits like:

Eases Arch, Heel, and Plantar Fasciitis Discomfort

On a holistic level, massage can ease muscle pain by boosting endorphins, calming the body, and stimulating pressure receptors. But studies are showing that it has potential for specific types of foot pain, too. 

In a 2021 case study, a woman with plantar fasciitis pain received five foot massages over five weeks. 

Her therapist used classic massage techniques combined with trigger point therapy to work out tight bands of tissue. Remarkably, the woman reported better foot function and pain levels by the end of the study.

Promotes Healthy Blood Flow

A good foot massage can warm up your muscles, help your blood vessels dilate, and encourage more healthy blood flow. In addition, it brings a deep sense of relaxation, which can support circulation as a whole.

This effect can be helpful when you’re dealing with sore, achy feet, as the extra blood flow can bring more nutrients and oxygen to the muscles that need it most.

Supports Foot and Ankle Mobility

Beyond supporting blood flow and easing pain, foot massage may also be able to promote healthy mobility.

In one 2019 study, researchers looked at the effects of foot massage and stretching on 45 people with heel pain. The participants were split into groups based on three approaches:

  • Foot and ankle massage, plus plantar fascia cross-friction massage
  • Plantar fascia cross-friction massage, plus a lower calf stretch 
  • A combination of both interventions

There were positive outcomes for all three groups. But surprisingly, the study found that the second group had the greatest improvement in pain and ankle dorsiflexion ROM — or the ability to flex the foot upward. In contrast, the combination group had the biggest boost in plantar flexion ROM (pointing the foot downward). 

In other words? The right foot massage techniques — especially combined with stretching — could be a powerful way to support your foot and ankle mobility.

Supports Balance, Stability, and Overall Foot Function

It’s clear that foot massage can be an excellent tool to supplement your overall foot health. Boosting mobility and soothing soreness are just two of the ways that it can help — but another potential benefit is that it may improve balance and stability. 

In a small 2017 study, researchers looked at the effects of plantar fasciitis foot massage on patients with type 2 diabetes. They found that the massages helped the patients experience better balance, reach, and functional mobility.

How To Try Arch Pain Massage: 5 Ways

Curious about trying arch foot massage at home? Here are five easy and restorative ways to get started:

1. Classic Massage Ball Release

A classic massage ball foot release is something you’ve probably heard of — and might have even tried in the past. Luckily, it’s also one of the easiest self-arch massage techniques to try at home. 

Simply:

  • Grab a ball of your choosing — such as a tennis ball or lacrosse ball. If you want even deeper relief, you could invest in an oscillating massage ball
  • Sit on a couch or chair, and rest your feet on the ground. 
  • Place the ball under your arch, and roll around with moderate pressure for 3–5 minutes. Feel free to focus on areas of extra tenderness, such as the inner or outer arch.

2. Warm Up Your Feet With Hands-On Massage

When you need arch pain relief, a hands-on massage is another soothing option to try. 

To start, you’ll want to sit so that you can easily reach the bottoms of your feet. One easy way to do this is to find somewhere comfortable to sit, and cross one leg up in a criss-cross position.

Then:

  • Begin by warming up your foot and ankle with gentle squeezing motions. Start from your lower calf and make your way down to the foot for 1–2 minutes.
  • Next, it’s time for arch thumb twists. Wrap both hands around the foot so that your thumbs are parallel on the arch.
  • Use moderate pressure and alternating, outward sweeping motions to massage the arch.
  • Finally, spend some time focusing on the heel. Use your thumbs to massage the tissue in circular motions, pausing to hold the pressure over any areas that feel especially tight or tender.

3. Use Your Knuckles

When it comes to arch pain massage, using your knuckles is one of the easiest — if not the easiest — techniques to try. Simply:

  • Align your knuckles just above your heel. 
  • Use moderate pressure to glide up the length of the foot. (Optionally, use a drop of oil or lotion to reduce friction.)
  • Repeat for 3–5 minutes, up to a few times per day.

4. Try a Gua Sha Foot Massage

If you’ve ever heard of using a gua sha for a face massage, it might surprise you to find out that these tools can also be excellent for the feet. 

A gua sha is a thin, ultra-smooth tool, often made of stone. It’s been used in Chinese culture to relieve pain and improve circulation, and it’s recently become popular in the Western world for skincare. 

To try this technique, you’ll need a gua sha and lotion or oil to help you glide it smoothly across the foot. Then:

  • Cross your foot up over your knee.
  • Begin to glide the gua sha along the center of the foot’s arch. 
  • Start with light pressure for 30–60 seconds. Then, increase the massage pressure to your comfort level. 
  • After a minute of working on the center of the arch, use the gua sha to sweep across your medial (inner) arch. Repeat for 1–2 minutes more.
  • Finally, switch to the lateral (outer) arch of your foot. Repeat for another 1–2 minutes.

5. Try a Vibrating Massager With an Arch Bar

Person relaxing while using the MedMassager foot massager.

If your everyday routine takes a toll on your feet, you might benefit from hands-free foot massage tools. Maybe you’ve been running more often lately, or have to stand all day for work — whatever the case may be, a home foot massager can be a great way to support and nourish your feet long-term.

There are many types of foot massagers out there, and not all of them use the same type of massage. Some use Shiatsu massage, which involves multiple roller balls on the bottoms of the feet.

Others like the MedMassager MMF07 use oscillating massage designed to mimic a real massage therapist. It also comes equipped with an arch bar just above the massage surface, making it versatile whether you need all-over relief or more focused work on the arches. 

Using a Home Foot Massager for Arch Pain

It’s always best to start with your specific device’s manual when getting started. But in general, here are the steps to follow:

  • Start your device to a light setting.
  • Warm up the bottoms of your feet for 60 seconds.
  • Increase the pressure as desired.
  • Relax and enjoy the foot massage for 5-10 minutes.
  • If your massager has an arch bar, you can finish your session by resting your feet on top of it for 2–4 minutes.

Arch Pain Massage Safety Tips

A common myth about massage is that it has to hurt to work — which isn’t always the case. Light pressure can be an ideal option for many, especially when it comes to the delicate muscles in the feet. 

Aside from pressure, when should you use arch pain massage? It’s often great for overused muscles, general achiness, post-workout pain, and longer-term issues that your doctor has OK’d for massage.

On the other hand, it’s best to avoid foot massage when you have a fresh injury — like a sprain, tear, or break — or a skin condition. And if you have a medical condition that hasn’t been approved for massage in the past, it’s always important to talk to your doctor first. 

Other Arch Pain Remedies To Try

Many other remedies can make a big difference in arch pain relief, especially when combined with regular massage. You can try:

  • Warmth to promote blood flow, oxygen, and nutrients to the tissue
  • Cold to ease inflammation
  • Rest to give your muscles, ligaments, and tendons a chance to start healing
  • Over-the-counter medication to soothe pain
  • Gentle stretches and exercises to keep your feet strong and mobile 

Preventative Measures for Arch Pain Relief

Once you’ve got your current bout of arch pain under control, here are steps you can take to keep it away for the long haul:

Lifestyle Changes

You can add to, adjust, or cut back on certain aspects of your lifestyle to prevent arch pain in the future. These include:

  • Finding the right shoes for you. Choosing shoes with arch support is a good place to start, but not every shoe is made equally. If you have differences in your foot mechanics or struggle with overpronation, it can help to ask a podiatrist for suggestions.
  • Identifying activities that cause you pain, and adjust your routine as needed. For instance, if you love jogging around your neighborhood but notice that it causes arch pain, it could help to run at a local park with grass trails instead.
  • Considering physical therapy for long-term arch pain. A physical therapist can teach you personalized stretches and strengthening movements to target imbalances in your feet.

Stretches and Exercises

Once your feet are healthy again, regular stretches and exercises can help keep your arches strong, resilient, and flexible. Some examples of arch-focused movements include:

Plantar Fascia Stretch

This simple movement can help you relieve tension near your plantar fascia. To try it:

  • Cross your foot up over your knee so that you can reach it comfortably.
  • Use one hand to hold your heel. 
  • With your other hand, grab hold of your toes.
  • Gently pull the toes back until you feel a stretch in your foot’s arch.
  • Hold for 10–20 seconds, and repeat 2–3 times with each foot. 

Towel Scrunches

This active movement can help you strengthen the supportive muscles in the arches of your feet. You’ll need a small towel to start. Then:

  • Sit on a chair or couch, and lay the towel out flat in front of you.
  • Use your toes to scrunch the towel in toward you, until all of the fabric is scrunched up.
  • Repeat 2–3 times with each foot.

Kneeling Arch Stretch

The kneeling arch stretch is another easy option for stretching the muscles around your plantar fascia. Here are the steps:

  • Get in a kneeling position with your feet flexed, toes planted on the ground, and heels pointing up.
  • Plant your hands on the ground to support your upper body.
  • Push back through your hands to sit back toward your ankles. Go until you feel a gentle stretch in the feet. 
  • Hold for 10–20 seconds, and repeat 2–3 times.

The Takeaway on Arch Pain Massage

Arch pain massage can be a great tool for easing overuse pain, dull aches, or sore feet from a long day. You don’t need any special tools to get started, and your hands can work well to encourage a boost of blood flow, nutrients, and muscle pain relief.

Light pressure is a good place to start, but you can dial your massage up to moderate pressure if it feels good to you. With that said, it’s important to remember that our feet can be delicate, and you don’t necessarily need deep pressure to find relief. 

To make your routine even easier, you can also opt for therapeutic home tools — like a massage ball, gua sha, or an electric foot massager equipped with an arch bar.

Get started with the MedMassager MMF07 today, or learn more about its many calming uses here

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