Flat feet and fallen arches are terms used to describe lowering of the long inner arch of the foot. In the past, we thought that flat feet were a sign of a poorly developed or poorly structured foot. Now we know that people with flat feet function generally well and that flat feet don?t cause many foot problems. The most important factor in foot soreness and injury is not how flat or high your arches are, but the way you walk and move. If your feet move abnormally while you are walking or standing, this can make you more prone to injuries and foot soreness.
Flat feet are a common condition. The condition is normal in infants and toddlers. Flat feet occur because the tissues holding the joints in the foot together (called tendons) are loose. The tissues tighten and form an arch as children grow older. This will take place by the time the child is 2 or 3 years old. Most people have normal arches by the time they are adults. However, the arch may never form in some people. Aging, injuries, or illness may harm the tendons and cause flat feet to develop in a person who has already formed arches. This type of flat foot may occur only on one side. Rarely, painful flat feet in children may be caused by a condition in which two or more of the bones in the foot grow or fuse together. This condition is called tarsal coalition.
Plantar fasciitis is most often seen in middle-aged men and women, but can be found in all age groups. The condition is diagnosed with the classic symptoms of pain well focused deep in the heel area of the bottom of the foot. Often the pain from plantar fasciitis is most severe when you first stand on your feet in the morning. Pain often subsides quite quickly, but then returns after prolonged standing or walking. Plantar fasciitis is sometimes, but not always, associated with a rapid gain of weight. It is also sometimes seen in recreational athletes, especially runners. In these athletes, it is thought that the repetitive nature of the sports causes the damage to the fibrous tissue that forms the arch of the foot.
A patient is asked to step with full body weight on the symptomatic foot, keeping the unaffected foot off the ground. The patient is then instructed to "raise up on the tip toes" of the affected foot. If the posterior tibial tendon has been attenuated or ruptured, the patient will be unable to lift the heel off the floor and rise onto the toes. In less severe cases, the patient will be able to rise on the toes, but the heel will not be noted to invert as it normally does when we rise onto the toes. X-rays can be helpful but are not diagnostic of the adult acquired flatfoot. Both feet, the symptomatic and asymptomatic - will demonstrate a flatfoot deformity on x-ray. Careful observation may show a greater severity of deformity on the affected side.
Non Surgical Treatment
Flat feet in a child do not need treatment if they are not causing pain or walking problems. Your child's feet will grow and develop the same, whether special shoes, shoe inserts, heel cups, or wedges are used. Your child may walk barefoot, run or jump, or do any other activity without making the flat feet worse. In older children and adults, flexible flat feet that do not cause pain or walking problems do not need further treatment. If you have pain due to flexible flat feet, the following may help. An arch-support (orthotic) that you put in your shoe. You can buy this at the store or have it custom-made. Special shoes. Rigid or painful flat feet need to be checked by a health care provider. The treatment depends on the cause of the flat feet. For tarsal coalition, treatment starts with rest and possibly a cast. Surgery may be needed if pain does not improve. In more severe cases, surgery may be needed to clean or repair the tendon, fuse joints in the foot into a corrected position. Flat feet in older adults can be treated with pain relievers, orthotics, and sometimes surgery.
The procedure involves cutting and shifting the bone, and then performing a tendon transfer. First, the surgeon performs a calcaneal osteotomy, cutting the heel bone and shifting it into the correct position. Second, the surgeon transfers the tendon. Reroute the flexor digitorum to replace the troublesome posterior tibial tendon. Finally, the surgeon typically performs one or more fine-tuning procedures that address the patient?s specific foot deformity. Often, the surgeon will lengthen the Achilles tendon because it is common for the mispositioned foot to cause the Achilles to tighten. Occasionally, to increase the arch, the surgeon performs another osteotomy of one of the bones of the midfoot. Occasionally, to point the foot in a straightforward direction, the surgeon performs another osteotomy of the outside portion of the calcaneus.
Stretch and strengthen important muscles in your feet, ankles and legs in order to guard against future strain. Make sure to acquire suitable arch supports and inserts if necessary, and that your shoes are shock absorbent and in good condition. Wearing tattered shoes provides no protection, and runners should replace their footwear before exceeding 500 miles of usage. Athletes new to arch supports should gradually build their training routine, allowing their feet to become accustomed to a new stance.
Flexibility is important in preventing injuries. With a simple stretching exercise, you can rehabilitate the muscles of your foot to relieve arch pain and prevent future injuries. This simple exercise by Tammy White and Phyllis Clapis for Relay Health is a good way to strengthen your foot muscles and stretch your plantar fascia. Sit in a chair and cross one foot over your other knee. Grab the base of your toes and pull them back toward your leg until you feel a comfortable stretch. Hold 15 seconds and repeat three times. When you can stand comfortably on your injured foot, you can begin standing to stretch the plantar fascia at the bottom of your foot.