Having flat feet is more common than you think. According to Healthline, every 1 in 10 people have flat feet. It is relatively easy to detect as well. If your arches on the inner part of the feet are flattened when you stand up, you have flat feet. Having flat feet allows your entire sole to touch the ground.
Even though having flat feet is a relatively painless experience, it can lead to other issues in the knees and ankles. As it alters leg alignment, you might require treatment. If not, no treatment is necessary as such.
Generally, flatfeet result from the failure of the development of arches in childhood. Moreover, it could also form due to injury or with age. But that is less likely.
So, if you have flat feet, or know somebody with flat feet, read ahead and learn about its probable symptoms and treatment methods.
What are Flat Feet?
Firstly, let us have an in-depth understanding of flat feet.
There are 33 joints in a human foot. These joints hold together 26 different bones with over 100 tendons, ligaments, and muscles. The arches act as a spring to the step and allow you to distribute the bodyweight on the feet and legs evenly.
These arches help you walk properly. A person with flat feet has a low or noarch. This keeps their feet entirely on the ground with no space in between.
The phenomenon of overpronation is common in people with flat feet. As their feet might roll to the inner side while walking or standing, it may lead to the feet pointing outward.
This condition is also known as fallen arches or pes planus
Types of Flat Feet
Majorly, there are three types of flat feet.
Flat feet are a common sight in children and infants. According to pediatricians, it can be due to a developmental flaw in childhood.
If you notice carefully, all children are born with flat feet. It is only over time that they start developing arches. If the child has a pediatric flatfoot, the arch disappears when he or she stands up. Inflexible pediatric flatfoot, the arch reappears when the child is on his or her toes.
In a rigid flatfoot, the arches do not reappear even when the child is on his or her feet or toes. But it is easier to identify such flatfoot at an early stage for better treatment.
Posterior tibial tendon dysfunction
This type of flatfoot is common in adulthood. It occurs when the tendon connecting your calf muscle to the inner part of your ankle gets torn, injured, or swollen.
It could be painful if the arch does not get the necessary support.
Tight Achilles tendon
If you didn’t know, your Achilles tendon helps in connected the heel bone to the calf muscle. It might pain if it is too tight, especially during rigorous foot movements. Moreover, it can push the heel to life prematurely while walking.
Causes of Flat Feet
Several factors, like the following, cause flat feet:
Most children are born with flat feet. If the arch fails to develop beyond the age of three, the child might have a flat foot.
It is also believed that the condition of flat feet can be genetic. It can run in the family and be passed down from the parents to their children.
Flat foot can also be caused due to injury, causing troubles while walking or running.
Pregnancy can also be a reason behind the formation of flat feet.
Posterior tibial tendon
Rupture of the posterior tibial tendon or damage caused to it can also lead to flat feet.
If a person has weak arches, the arch might be visible while sitting down. But the foot gets flat while walking or standing.
Medical conditions like cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, or spina bifida can also cause flat feet.
This is a medical condition that causes the bones to get fused together, leading to stiff and sometimes flat feet.
People with diabetes or alarming obesity can also develop flat feet.
Symptoms of Flat Feet
It is not difficult to recognize a flat foot. When the sole of the foot touches the ground entirely while standing straight, it means you have flat feet.
However, several indicators can be a potential symptom of the flat foot, like the following:
The first symptom that people might encounter is pain in the feet. It can be due to the strained muscles and ligaments.
If the ankles keep on turning inwards, or there is high stress on knees or hips, the pain will elevate.
Besides your feet, you might also feel some pain in your knees, calves, hip, lower back, lower legs, arches, etc.
Fatigue on the Inner Side of Arches
If your feet pain and fatigue on the inner side of arches, you might have a flat foot.
Other Problems Caused Due to Flat Foot
Flat foot, on its own, can be painful for some people. However, this medical condition can also cause the following issues:
- 1. Rolled-in ankles
- Shin Splints
- Plantar fasciitis
- Disintictive and uncomfortable walking patterns
- Posterior tibial tendon dysfunction (PTTD)
Most of the time, a flat foot causes no significant pain. However, if you feel tremendous amount of pain because of it, it is best to visit a healthcare professional.
A podiatrist or orthopedic surgeon is better equipped to understand the severity of the problem. They might take a few tests. If the arch is still present, the pain might be caused by a different issue. This will require your doctor to look for flexion in your ankle.
Foot X-rays or a full scan might be essential.
Besides that, several other ways of treatment can work for people with flat feet.
Your healthcare provider will recommend specially designed orthotics. These are inserts that you will have to place in your shoes for maximum support.
Heel cups or special shoes are recommended for children till their arches are fully developed.
A balanced and healthy diet can help in alleviating foot pain. But diet on its own will not work. Your doctor might also recommend specific exercises. Moreover, you might be advised not to walk or stand for an extended period.
Certain exercises can help people with flat feet. Some of them are mentioned as follows:
a) Heel Stretches
Stand straight and keep on your hands on a wall or chair at your shoulder level. You can also keep it at your eye level, whichever is convenient.
Place one leg forward and the other behind you. Do so while pressing both heels firmly.
Bent your front leg while maintaining your posture and push yourself into the wall. You must feel a stretch in your back leg.
Hold it for thirty seconds and repeat it four times on each side.
b) Arch Lifts
Stand straight with your feet parallel to your hips. Ensure that the toes remain on the floor the entire time.
Lift your arches as high as you can while rolling your weight on the outer edges of your feet.
Hold and return to the original position.
Repeat this fifteen times.
c) Golf Ball Rolls
Sit comfortably on a chair and place a golf ball under your left foot. You can also use a tennis ball for the same.
Roll the ball under your foot while maintaining a proper posture.
Continue doing it for five minutes.
Repeat the process for your left foot.
d) Toe Raises
Stand straight and press your big toe on the floor while raising the other toes.
Stand in the same position for five minutes and repeat ten times for each foot.
e) Towel Curls
Take a towel and palace it under your feet while sitting in a chair.
Curl your toes to hold and scrunch the towel.
Press it tightly to hold it.
Ensure that the ball of your foot is pressed to the foot.
Repeat this fifteen times.
f) Calf Raises
Lift your heels while standing. Use a chair or wall for balance.
Hold the position for five seconds and come back to the floor.
Repeat this twenty times.
If the pain worsens, your doctor might prescribe anti-inflammatory medications to get rid of the swelling.
What is the Last Resort?
If none of the solutions mentioned above seem to be working for you, it is advisable to get foot surgery.
Your surgeon will create an arch in your feet or repair tendons. The fusing of the bones or joints might also be done, as per the individual’s situation. If your Achilles tendon is too short, your surgeon will lengthen it to eliminate the pain.
Can you Prevent Flat Feet?
Even though you cannot prevent flat feet as it can be due to genetics or differences in the arch development in early childhood days, you can reduce its possibility by wearing the right kind of shoes.
Generally, you can live with your flat feet for the rest of your life without any significant difficulties or pain. However, some people experience pain, and it becomes necessary to treat them. Always remember to wear more comfortable shoes and the ones that provide the right kind of arch support.
Brandon R. Katz is a registered professional nurse who has been instrumental in providing us with an informed opinion on the medical aspects of footwear. He graduated from NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and currently provides his services at a non-federal long-term care hospital in Brooklyn, NY.
Brandon proves to be the champion in the group of expert writers with his in-depth knowledge in foot health, how to take care of it adequately, and what shoes, socks, or insoles will be supreme for you. He has previously worked with hospitals where he has foreseen both inpatient and outpatient departments and has been a practicing nurse since 2009.
Brandon hails from Jersey City, NY, and has a loving family of four with a small popper called Rozo. His decision to become a nurse arises from the desire to be in the position of helping and rehabilitating people.