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What is an Arch Brace?

By Bill C.
Updated May 17, 2024
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An arch brace is an apparatus worn around the ankle to ease foot pain or help correct conditions that cause it. The device typically consists of a soft cushioned pad that fits beneath the foot under the arch and is held there by some a strap or straps fitting over the foot. Typical use of an arch brace is in treatment of heel spurs, the most common cause of heel pain. Numerous other medical conditions are often also helped by these kinds of braces.

Arch braces do not require a prescription and are normally available off the shelf. For severe conditions, medical professionals sometimes order custom-made versions. Arch braces are usually found with other forms of foot orthotics, which are a devices typically used to support the foot and commonly applied to the treatment of orthopedic problems.

A heel spur is often referred to by its medical name, plantar fasciitis, which is an injury to the tissue that extends along the bottom of the foot and helps support the arch. The fascia serves as the foot's shock absorber, protecting it against damage. When the shock absorber itself becomes injured, the foot can be damaged, and severe pain is frequently the consequence. An arch brace reinforces this shock absorber and distributes weight evenly across the bottom of the foot, usually relieving the pain and often helping the injury heal.

Other conditions causing pain to the heel include arthritis and osteoarthritis in the foot, diabetes, and stress resulting from poor-fitting shoes, obesity, and an irregular gait. The same mechanics of relief provided by arch braces for heel spurs often deliver relief and correction for these conditions.

An arch brace can also help conditions causing arch pain. For fallen arches, the arch's cushioned pad gently conforms the arch to its original position. Arches that are too large and high benefit from the straps applying downward pressure on the foot, easing the arch back to a normal configuration. Flat feet often cause no pain, but when pain is an issues the use of an arch brace can relieve discomfort by creating an artificial arch.

Anyone considering use an over-the-counter arch brace should usually seek medical advice first. Even with medical approval, further consultation may be necessary if the medical condition they are using it for does not improve within a reasonable period of time. Some conditions can worsen, or even become chronic, if proper treatment is not received.

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Discussion Comments

By fify — On Sep 20, 2014

@ddljohn-- Yes, there is a type of arch brace that has an additional piece that wraps around the big toe and separates it. This can provide some relief from bunion pain since the bunion causes the big toe to sit inward unnaturally. That same piece also covers the bunion and can prevent pain that way.

You may have to look online for this type of arch brace. It's definitely available but the stores near you may not carry it. I know because I bought one for my mom last year. She has a large bunion and uses this brace quite regularly.

By ddljohn — On Sep 19, 2014

Is there an arch brace product that also helps with bunions? I thought there was but I couldn't find it at the store or the pharmacy.

By SteamLouis — On Sep 19, 2014

Flat feet does cause pain if the wrong type are shoes are worn or after long periods of standing and walking.

I have flat feet since birth. It actually runs in my family. It was much worse when I was a child. It has improved with the use of orthopedic shoes and an arch brace.

Because the arch is almost non-existent in people with flat feet, weight of the body is not distributed normally in the foot. This causes pain after long periods of standing and walking. But wearing the arch brace seems to resolve this. Sometimes, orthopedic shoes are enough. Other times, I have great discomfort after a long day without my arch brace.

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