Flexible flatfeet are considered normal in young children because babies are not born with a normal arch. The arch may not form fully until sometime between ages 7 and 10. Even in adulthood, 15% to 25% of people have flexible flatfeet. Most of these people never develop symptoms. In many adults who have had flexible flatfeet since childhood, the missing arch is an inherited condition related to a general looseness of ligaments. These people usually have extremely flexible, very mobile joints throughout the body, not only in the feet. Flatfeet also can develop during adulthood. Causes include joint disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis, and disorders of nerve function (neuropathy).
The most common acquired flat foot in adults is due to Posterior Tibial Tendon Dysfunction. This develops with repetitive stress on the main supporting tendon of the arch over a long period of time. As the body ages, ligaments and muscles can weaken, leaving the job of supporting the arch all to this tendon. The tendon cannot hold all the weight for long, and it gradually gives out, leading to a progressively lower arch. This form of flat foot is often accompanied by pain radiating behind the ankle, consistent with the course of the posterior tibial tendon. Compounding matters is the fact that the human foot was not originally designed to withstand the types of terrain and forces it is subjected to today. Nowhere in nature do you see the flat hard surfaces that we so commonly walk on in present times. Walking on this type of surface continuously puts unnatural stress on the arch. The fact that the average American is overweight does not help the arch much either-obesity is a leading cause of flat feet as the arch collapses under the excessive bodyweight. Furthermore, the average life span has increased dramatically in the last century, meaning that not only does the arch deal with heavy weight on hard flat ground, but also must now do so for longer periods of time. These are all reasons to take extra care of our feet now in order to prevent problems later.
Symptoms of plantar fasciitis may occur anywhere along the arch, but it is most common near its attachment to the heel bone. Symptoms of plantar fasciitis vary, but the classic symptom is pain after rest--when you first get out of bed in the morning, or when you get up after sitting down for a while during the day. This is known as "post-static dyskinesia." The pain usually diminishes after a few minutes of walking, sometimes even disappearing, but the pain is commonly felt again the longer you're on the foot. Fasciitis can be aggravated by shoes that lack appropriate support, especially in the arch area, and by the chronic irritation of long-periods of standing, especially on concrete, and by being overweight. Other factors which influence this condition are gender (females get this more than men), age (30s to 50s are most common), and those with flatter-than-normal feet. It doesn't help that fascia doesn't heal particularly quickly. This is because it has relatively poor circulation, which is why it's white in colour.
The adult acquired flatfoot, secondary to posterior tibial tendon dysfunction, is diagnosed in a number of ways with no single test proven to be totally reliable. The most accurate diagnosis is made by a skilled clinician utilizing observation and hands on evaluation of the foot and ankle. Observation of the foot in a walking examination is most reliable. The affected foot appears more pronated and deformed compared to the unaffected foot. Muscle testing will show a strength deficit. An easy test to perform in the office is the single foot raise.
Non Surgical Treatment
There are home remedies to prevent or manage pain from fallen arches or flat feet. Here are some areas to consider. Wear footwear or shoe inserts that are appropriate to your activity. When pain occurs, try at-home treatment of rest, ice, and over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, or NSAIDS, such as ibuprofen. Ask your doctor or a physical therapist to show you stretches that can prepare you for feet-intensive activities. Limit or treat risk factors that can make fallen arches or flat feet worse, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. Avoid activities that put excessive stress on your feet, such as running on roads. Avoid high-impact sports such as basketball, hockey, soccer, and tennis. Know when to get help. When pain is severe or interferes with activities, it's time to see the doctor for a thorough exam and treatment.
Tendon transfers: Too much pull of certain muscles and tendons is often the cause of the deformity related with a cavus foot. Moving one of these muscles or tendons may help the foot work better. In addition, patients with a cavus foot may have weakness in moving the foot up, which is sometimes called a foot drop. In these cases, a tendon from the back of the ankle may be moved to the top of the foot to help improve strength. Correcting the deformity of the foot may not be possible with soft tissue procedures alone. In these instances, one or more bone cuts (osteotomies) may be needed. Instead of a bone cut, a fusion (arthrodesis) procedure may be used. A fusion removes the joint between two bones so they grow together over time. During a fusion the bones may be held in place with plates or screws. Calcaneal osteotomy: This procedure is performed to bring the heel bone back under the leg. This is needed if correction of the deformity in the front of the foot does not also correct the back of the foot or ankle. A calcaneal osteotomy can be performed several ways and is often held in place with one or more screws. Sometimes patients have a deformity that has caused damage to the joints. In these cases, soft tissue procedures or bone cuts may not be enough, and it may be necessary to eliminate the joint. Clawed toes are a common problem with cavus foot deformity. This can be treated with tendon surgery, fusion or removal of part of the toe bones. Following surgery the toes are often temporarily held in place with pins.
So how do you prevent plantar fasciitis? Factors which can be controlled include training progression, environmental factors, shoes, and strength and flexibility exercises. A useful guideline for a safe training progression is ?the 10% rule.? Limit increases in distance or intensity to 10% a week. For example, if a person is running 60 minutes at a session, 4 times a week, or 240 minutes, she or he can probably increase the running time to 264 minutes (240 + 10%), the following week if all else remains the same. Terrain is also an important factor in training. Running 30 minutes on hills is very different from running 30 minutes on flat surfaces in terms of the forces on the legs and feet. Work up gradually to increase your running time on hills. Also lean forward when running downhill. If you run on a banked or crowned surface, vary the direction you run in so you alternate which leg is higher and which leg is lower on the bank. If you know concrete or asphalt is causing you discomfort, try running on a cinder or composite track. If you are going on vacation and are not used to running on sand or grass, don?t spend your whole vacation doing it.
Try these simple stretches to assist with relieving pain in your arches. (Note: Stretch slowly and gently. You should feel a moderate pull on the muscle and tendon but no pain. If these stretches are painful, stop and seek further advice from a health professional). STRETCH ONE. Stand at arm?s length from a wall with one foot in front of the other, forward knee bent. Keeping your back leg straight and back heel on the floor, lean into the wall until you feel a stretch in your calf. STRETCH TWO. This time, bend your back leg slightly, and lean into the wall. You should feel a stretch in the lower part of your calf. Hold each stretch for 20 seconds and repeat on each leg, a few times daily.