Fallen Arches?

Overview

Adult Acquired Flat Foot

Most people (approx. 60-70% of the population) suffer from excessive pronation due to flat feet when walking, running and standing. Though the foot may appear normal when sitting down, with a clear arch present under the foot, over-pronation becomes noticeable when we stand or walk as a result of weight bearing. The arches collapse with every step we take, and the ankles roll inwards. This is called overpronation, a biomechanical imbalance that can lead to many painful foot conditions such as heel pain, plantar fasciitis, heel spurs, tendonitis, and can even affect other parts of your body such as the knees and lower back.




Causes

Some people develop fallen arches because they tend to pronate, or roll inwards on the ankles, says the Instep Foot Clinic. Other people may simply have under-developed muscles in their arches. Your arches help your feet bear weight and are supported in this job by muscles and tendons in your feet and ankles. So, while fallen arches aren?t usually serious, they can cause pain in your feet, ankles, knees and/or hips due to your reduced weight-bearing ability. In these cases, treatment may be required. Orthotics that sit in your shoes and support your arches are a common solution, as are exercises to strengthen and stretch your feet and leg muscles.




Symptoms

Flat feet don't usually cause problems, but they can put a strain on your muscles and ligaments (ligaments link two bones together at a joint). This may cause pain in your legs when you walk. If you have flat feet, you may experience pain in any of the following areas, the inside of your ankle, the arch of your foot, the outer side of your foot, the calf, the knee, hip or back. Some people with flat feet find that their weight is distributed unevenly, particularly if their foot rolls inwards too much (overpronates). If your foot overpronates, your shoes are likely to wear out quickly. Overpronation can also damage your ankle joint and Achilles tendon (the large tendon at the back of your ankle).




Diagnosis

If your child has flatfeet, his or her doctor will ask about any family history of flatfeet or inherited foot problems. In a person of any age, the doctor will ask about occupational and recreational activities, previous foot trauma or foot surgery and the type of shoes worn. The doctor will examine your shoes to check for signs of excessive wear. Worn shoes often provide valuable clues to gait problems and poor bone alignment. The doctor will ask you to walk barefoot to evaluate the arches of the feet, to check for out-toeing and to look for other signs of poor foot mechanics. The doctor will examine your feet for foot flexibility and range of motion and feel for any tenderness or bony abnormalities. Depending on the results of this physical examination, foot X-rays may be recommended. X-rays are always performed in a young child with rigid flatfeet and in an adult with acquired flatfeet due to trauma.




Non Surgical Treatment

The treatment your podiatrist recommends will depend upon the trouble and pain you?re experiencing. Custom shoe inserts (orthotics) are most often recommended and are quite effective. Stretching exercises to loosen and strengthen the supporting tendons may also be recommended. Orthotic devices or bracing. To give your arch the support it needs, your foot and ankle surgeon may recommend an ankle brace or a custom orthotic device that fits into your shoe to support the arch. A short-leg cast or boot may be worn to immobilize the foot and allow the tendon to heal. Ultrasound therapy and stretching exercises may help rehabilitate the tendon and muscle following immobilization. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, help reduce the pain and inflammation. Your foot and ankle surgeon may recommend changes in your footwear.




Surgical Treatment

Flat Feet

A combination of surgical procedures can be used to reconstruct the flatfoot. Generally, these procedures can be separated into those that correct deformities of the bones and those that repair ligaments and tendons. Your orthopaedic surgeon will choose the proper combination of procedures for your foot. Surgery of the foot can be performed under regional anesthesia, which is numbing the foot and ankle with a nerve or spinal block, or general anesthesia, which may require a breathing tube. A nerve block is often placed behind the knee to reduce pain after surgery.




Prevention

Going barefoot, particularly over terrain such as a beach where muscles are given a good workout, is good for all but the most extremely flatfooted, or those with certain related conditions such as plantar fasciitis. Ligament laxity is also among the factors known to be associated with flat feet. One medical study in India with a large sample size of children who had grown up wearing shoes and others going barefoot found that the longitudinal arches of the bare footers were generally strongest and highest as a group, and that flat feet were less common in children who had grown up wearing sandals or slippers than among those who had worn closed-toe shoes. Focusing on the influence of footwear on the prevalence of pes planus, the cross-sectional study performed on children noted that wearing shoes throughout early childhood can be detrimental to the development of a normal or a high medial longitudinal arch. The vulnerability for flat foot among shoe-wearing children increases if the child has an associated ligament laxity condition. The results of the study suggest that children be encouraged to play barefooted on various surfaces of terrain and that slippers and sandals are less harmful compared to closed-toe shoes. It appeared that closed-toe shoes greatly inhibited the development of the arch of the foot more so than slippers or sandals. This conclusion may be a result of the notion that intrinsic muscle activity of the arch is required to prevent slippers and sandals from falling off the child?s foot.
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