Flat feet, fallen arches, or ?pes planus? is normally a symptomless and fortunately painless condition. It is characterized by the arch of the foot collapsing completely, which causes the entire sole of the foot to come into perfect contact with the ground. An estimated 20-30 percent of the entire population has some form of flat feet, ranging in severity from asymptomatic to somewhat problematic. Most people who endure this problem are able to experience life pain and symptom free from the nearly unnoticeable abnormality. However, a small sector of those affected do experience pain or discomfort, which is when a treatment program needs to be put in action.
Genetic predisposition. Faulty foot mechanics, e.g. excessive pronation. Abnormal bony architecture. Laxity of ligaments. Neuro-muscular disease. Trauma to the leg muscles or major tendons. Inflammatory diseases of the joints e.g. Rheumatoid arthritis. Surgical procedures on the leg and ankle. Limb length inequality. Tight Achilles tendon.
It?s possible to have fallen arches and experience no symptoms whatsoever. But many people do notice some problems with this condition. Their feet, back and legs ache. Standing on their toes is difficult, if not impossible, and they note swelling around the arch and heel.
Podiatrists are trained in expertly assessing flat feet and identifying different risk factors and the causes for it. Initial assessment will begin with a detailed history attempting to find out if any underlying illness has resulted in this. A detailed clinical examination normally follows. The patient may be asked to perform certain movements such as walking or standing on their toes to assess the function of the foot. Footwear will also be analysed to see if there has been excessive wear or if they are contributing to the pronation of the foot. To assess the structure of the foot further, the podiatrist may perform certain x-rays to get a detailed idea of the way the bones are arranged and how the muscle tissues may be affecting them. It also helps assess any potential birth defects in a bit more detail.
What does it mean when you have flat feet?
Non Surgical Treatment
If you have flat feet (pes planus) it does not mean you will have problems or pain. Flat feet are a common condition. Flat feet are defined as an abnormal lowering of the medial longitudinal arch. There is often a hereditary component to the development of flat feet. Flat feet are more common in certain ethnic groups. Flat feet usually occurs equally in both feet and become apparent at an early age. Flat feet can initially be asymptomatic, but can become progressively symptomatic with age. Some flat feet never become bothersome. The medial arch is unstable in flexible flatfoot. The foot can bend as the heel lifts of the ground. This creates stress on the surrounding soft-tissues and joints creating tired, sore arches. The instability of the foot can create abnormal stress that flows up the leg which results in pain in the legs, knees, hips and lower back. Patients with flat feet often present to the chiropodist/podiatrist with problems that are indirectly caused by their foot structure.
Procedures may include the following. Fusing foot or ankle bones together (arthrodesis). Removing bones or bony growths, also called spurs (excision). Cutting or changing the shape of the bone (osteotomy). Cleaning the tendons' protective coverings (synovectomy). Adding tendon from other parts of your body to tendons in your foot to help balance the "pull" of the tendons and form an arch (tendon transfer). Grafting bone to your foot to make the arch rise more naturally (lateral column lengthening).
Orthotic inserts, either prescribed or bought over the counter, can help keep the arches fixed into position, but always wear them as although they support, they don?t strengthen, which is why some experts reccomend avoiding them. Gait analysis at a run specialist can help to diagnose overpronation and flat feet. Most brands produce shoes that will give support and help to limit the negative effects of a poor gait on the rest of the body. Barefoot exercises, such as standing on a towel and making fists with the toes, can help to strengthen the arches. Start easy and build up the reps to avoid cramping. Short barefoot running sessions can help take pressure off the arches by using the natural elasticity of the foot?s tendons to take impact and build strength to help prevent flat feet. These should be done on grass for only a few minutes at a time.
Patients may go home the day of surgery or they may require an overnight hospital stay. The leg will be placed in a splint or cast and should be kept elevated for the first two weeks. At that point, sutures are removed. A new cast or a removable boot is then placed. It is important that patients do not put any weight on the corrected foot for six to eight weeks following the operation. Patients may begin bearing weight at eight weeks and usually progress to full weightbearing by 10 to 12 weeks. For some patients, weightbearing requires additional time. After 12 weeks, patients commonly can transition to wearing a shoe. Inserts and ankle braces are often used. Physical therapy may be recommended. There are complications that relate to surgery in general. These include the risks associated with anesthesia, infection, damage to nerves and blood vessels, and bleeding or blood clots. Complications following flatfoot surgery may include wound breakdown or nonunion (incomplete healing of the bones). These complications often can be prevented with proper wound care and rehabilitation. Occasionally, patients may notice some discomfort due to prominent hardware. Removal of hardware can be done at a later time if this is an issue. The overall complication rates for flatfoot surgery are low.