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What Are Fallen Arches

Overview

Flat Foot

There are many different causes of and treatments for flat foot. The most important part of treatment is determining the exact flat foot type on an individual basis, and doing so early on. The main objective is to become educated on the potential problems, so that you can stop them before they start. Conservative treatment is often successful if initiated early. The old adage "a stitch in time saves nine" definitely applies to the human body, hopefully more figuratively than literally. Do not ignore what your common sense and your body are telling you. Yes, you can live without an arch, but never neglect a symptomatic foot. If you neglect your feet, they will make you pay with every literal step you take.

Causes

As discussed above, many health conditions can create a painful flatfoot. Damage to the posterior tibial tendon is the most common cause of AAFD. The posterior tibial tendon is one of the most important tendons of the leg. It starts at a muscle in the calf, travels down the inside of the lower leg and attaches to the bones on the inside of the foot. The main function of this tendon is to hold up the arch and support your foot when you walk. If the tendon becomes inflamed or torn, the arch will slowly collapse. Women and people over 40 are more likely to develop problems with the posterior tibial tendon. Other risk factors include obesity, diabetes, and hypertension. Having flat feet since childhood increases the risk of developing a tear in the posterior tibial tendon. In addition, people who are involved in high impact sports, such as basketball, tennis, or soccer, may have tears of the tendon from repetitive use.

Symptoms

Knee/Hip/Back Pain - When the arch collapses in the foot, it triggers a series of compensations up the joint chain, leading to increased stress on the knee, pelvis and low back. Plantar fasciitis - This condition is characterized by heel pain, especially with the first few steps you take. The plantar fascia stretches as the arch falls, putting stress on the heel. Bunions - If you see a bony bump developing at the base of your big toe, you are likely developing a bunion. It may be swollen, red or painful when it rubs against your shoe. A flattened arch spreads the forefoot and causes the big toe to deviate toward the second toe. Shin splints - This term generally refers to pain anywhere along the shinbone. It is typically due to overuse and is aggravated after exercise and activity.

Diagnosis

Most children and adults with flatfeet do not need to see a physician for diagnosis or treatment. However, it is a good idea to see a doctor if the feet tire easily or are painful after standing, it is difficult to move the foot around or stand on the toes, the foot aches, especially in the heel or arch, and there is swelling on the inner side of the foot, the pain interferes with activity or the person has been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Most flatfeet are diagnosed during physical examination. During the exam, the foot may be wetted and the patient asked to stand on a piece of paper. An outline of the entire foot will indicate a flattened arch. Also, when looking at the feet from behind, the ankle and heel may appear to lean inward (pronation). The patient may be asked to walk so the doctor can see how much the arch flattens during walking. The doctor may also examine the patient's shoes for signs of uneven wear, ask questions about a family history of flatfeet, and inquire about known neurological or muscular diseases. Imaging tests may be used to help in the diagnosis. If there is pain or the arch does not appear when the foot is flexed, x-rays are taken to determine the cause. If tarsal coalition is suspected, computed tomography (CT scan) may be performed, and if an injury to the tendons is suspected, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI scan) may be performed.

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Non Surgical Treatment

Most flexible flat feet are asymptomatic, and do not cause pain. In these cases, there is usually no cause for concern, and the condition may be considered a normal human variant. Flat feet were formerly a physical-health reason for service-rejection in many militaries. However, three military studies on asymptomatic adults (see section below), suggest that persons with asymptomatic flat feet are at least as tolerant of foot stress as the population with various grades of arch. Asymptomatic flat feet are no longer a service disqualification in the U.S. military.

Surgical Treatment

Flat Feet

This is rare and usually only offered if patients have significant abnormalities in their bones or muscles. Treatments include joint fusion, reshaping the bones in the foot, and occasionally moving around tendons in the foot to help balance out the stresses (called tendon transfer).