Fallen arches, or flatfoot, is a condition in which the arch on the inside of the foot is flat and the entire sole of the foot rests on the ground. It affects about 40% of the general population. Although flat feet in themselves are not usually problematic, they can create problems in the feet, hips, ankles and knees. Pain may be experienced in the lower back if there are alignment problems and if the individual is engaged in a lot of heavy, high impact activities that put stress on the bones and muscles in the lower legs. The arches of most individuals are fully developed by the age of 12 to 13. While some people are born with flat arches, for others the arches fall over time. The tibial tendon, which runs along the inside of the ankle from above the ankle to the arch, can weaken with age and with heavy activity. The posterior tendon, main support structure for the arch, can become inflamed (tendonitis) or even tear if overloaded. For women, wearing high heels can affect the Achilles tendon and alter the structure and function of the ankle. The posterior tibial tendon may compensate for this stress and break down, causing the arches to fall. Obesity is another contributing factor, as well as a serious injury to the ankle or foot, arthritis and bad circulation such as occurs with diabetes.
There is a lack of normal arch development, probably due to inherent ligamentous laxity. Around 20% of adults have Pes planus. The majority have a flexible flat foot and no symptoms. However, if there is also heel cord contracture, there may be symptoms (see 'Contributing factors', below). Loss of support for the arch. Dysfunction of the tibialis posterior tendon, a common and important cause. Tear of the spring ligament (rare). Tibialis anterior rupture (rare). A neuropathic foot, e.g from diabetes, polio, or other neuropathies. Degenerative changes in foot and ankle joints. Inflammatory arthropathy, eg rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis. Fractures. Bony abnormalities, eg tarsal coalition.
Flat feet can cause a myriad of symptoms, from experiencing pain in the foot, heels, arch, calves, the shin, the knee, the hip and into the lower back due to overworking of the hip flexors or they may find it hard to stand on tip toes.
People who have flat feet without signs or symptoms that bother them do not generally have to see a doctor or podiatrist about them. However, if any of the following occur, you should see your GP or a podiatrist. The fallen arches (flat feet) have developed recently. You experience pain in your feet, ankles or lower limbs. Your unpleasant symptoms do not improve with supportive, well-fitted shoes. Either or both feet are becoming flatter. Your feet feel rigid (stiff). Your feet feel heavy and unwieldy. Most qualified health care professionals can diagnose flat feet just by watching the patient stand, walk and examining his/her feet. A doctor will also look at the patient's medical history. The feet will be observed from the front and back. The patient may be asked to stand on tip-toe while the doctor examines the shape and functioning of each foot. In some cases the physician may order an X-ray, CT (computed tomography) scan, or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan.
What does it mean when you have flat feet?
Non Surgical Treatment
If you have fallen arches, but you are not experiencing any symptoms, then you probably do not need to seek treatment. If you are experiencing discomfort due to fallen arches, there are several treatment options. These treatment options include elevating the feet and applying ice to ease discomfort and reduce swelling, rest, exercises to stretch the feet, physical therapy, medication, such as anti-inflammatories, steroid injections and orthotic devices or customised arch supportsto wear in the shoes. If you have fallen arches and periodically experience pain related to that condition, it is a good idea to get orthotic devicesor custom arch supports, to wear in your shoes. The other treatment options, like medication and ice, will help to ease pain from fallen arches after you have already begun to experience pain. However, orthotic devices or(custom arch supports)can help to prevent pain from occurring at all. This preventative measure helps many people with fallen arches to avoid pain and prevent worsening of their condition. In severe cases of fallen arches, surgery may be required to correct the problem. You can also help to prevent pain and exacerbation of fallen arches by reducing your risk factors. If you are overweight, try to lose weight. Even a small weight loss can reduce the pressure on your feet significantly. If you are diabetic, manage your blood sugar as best as possible. Losing weight often also improves the condition of diabetics. You should also avoid high-impact activities, like running on the road, tennis, and sports that involve jumping. Try a gentler form of exercise, like swimming, instead. If you have fallen arches, orthotic devices or(custom arch supports)are an important component of your treatment and can help to prevent pain.
Surgical procedures for flat feet vary depending on the root cause of the condition. Surgical correction to control pronation may include bone implants or Achilles tendon lengthening. Tendon transfer, which is a procedure to re-attach a tendon to another area of bone, may also be used to reduce pronation and improve foot function.