Flat Feet


 

What are Flat Feet?

Flat feet are a common condition in which the entire sole of the foot makes contact with the ground. Normally, the arch of the foot distributes the body’s weight and determines your gait. With the absence of this natural arch, flat feet can alter how you stand and walk. Some people experience overpronation, or an inward rolling of the foot.

For young children, flat feet are normal, although the condition is also seen in cases of cerebral palsy and spina bifida. In most cases, however, children eventually develop a full arch on their own. Flat feet can also arise from fallen arches, which are the result of injury or wear and tear over time. Conditions like obesity, diabetes, aging, arthritis, or pregnancy can also cause you to develop flat feet.

 

Flat Feet Symptoms

Most people with flat feet will not experience symptoms, but there can be related pain in the foot or ankle, especially after physical activity. Patients may suffer from pain in the knees, hips, or lower back as well. Others may not notice pain, but find that they wear down their shoes unevenly, leading to some discomfort.

In some cases, a newly collapsed arch is a symptom of a condition called posterior tibial tendonitis, which requires a doctor’s attention. This painful condition includes swelling around the ankle and the inability to stand on the affected leg while raising the heel.

 

Flat Feet Treatment

In many cases, flat feet do not require medical intervention. However, those experiencing discomfort should consider supportive shoes or custom orthotics. These devices can help correct any pronation and relieve pressure on other parts of your legs. Your doctor may inspect how you walk and stand, and suggest an X-ray or CT scan to confirm your issues are not caused by other conditions like arthritis. People with flat feet may find that low-impact activities like biking or swimming are a better fit than running. Physical therapy may help you improve your form and strengthen your feet to better enjoy an active lifestyle.

If your flat feet are related to an injury, such as an inflamed or ruptured tendon, your doctor will first suggest orthotics, icing, and anti-inflammatory medication. Strengthening exercises are the next line of defense in moderate cases. An ankle brace can take pressure off the area and help the patient avoid surgery. If the pain or foot damage is long-lasting and severe, there are a number of surgical interventions that can be undertaken to recreate an arch. The surgeon may fuse the foot or ankle bones, cut away bone spurs or parts of the bone itself, or perform a tendon transfer with bone cuts or joint fusions from other areas of your body.

 

Flat Feet Recovery Time

Patients with new orthotics will need around two weeks to adjust, while physical therapy to strengthen the area and relieve discomfort may take up to several months. For acute conditions that may include flat feet as a symptom, pain may be persistent, lasting three to six months during treatment. After surgery, it may be a year before the pain fully subsides.

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