Thresa Bauswell

The Globe's Premier Foot Blog Site

Are Fallen Arches Flat Feet?

Overview

Flat Feet

Pes planus is a condition in which the arch or instep of the foot collapses and comes in contact with the ground. In some individuals, this arch never develops while they are growing. Alternative names include pes planovalgus, flat feet, fallen arches, pronation of the feet.

Causes

Footwear: shoes which limit toe movement; high heels. Barefoot walking may be protective. A tight Achilles tendon or calf muscles (heel cord contracture). This may help to cause Pes Planus, or may contribute to symptoms such as foot pain when there is existing Pes Planus. Obesity. Other bony abnormalities, eg rotational deformities, tibial abnormalities, coalition (fusion) of tarsal bones, equinus deformity. Ligamentous laxity, eg familial, Marfan's syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Down's syndrome. Other factors causing foot pronation, eg hip abductor weakness and genu valgum.

Symptoms

Most people do not exhibit any symptoms of flat feet, but if the condition is due to an underlying problem, symptoms can include foot pain, mainly in the arch or heel areas, difficulty standing on tiptoes, swelling that occurs on the inside of the ankle, pain in the calf, knee, hip, or lower leg area, both feet lie flat on the ground with no gap, Shoes may not fit properly, heel may tilt away from the midline of the body more than usual, absence of foot arch when standing. If you are experiencing these symptoms and have flat feet, you should consider seeing your doctor or a podiatrist immediately for an examination.

Diagnosis

People who have flat feet without signs or symptoms that bother them do not generally have to see a doctor or podiatrist about them. However, if any of the following occur, you should see your GP or a podiatrist. The fallen arches (flat feet) have developed recently. You experience pain in your feet, ankles or lower limbs. Your unpleasant symptoms do not improve with supportive, well-fitted shoes. Either or both feet are becoming flatter. Your feet feel rigid (stiff). Your feet feel heavy and unwieldy. Most qualified health care professionals can diagnose flat feet just by watching the patient stand, walk and examining his/her feet. A doctor will also look at the patient's medical history. The feet will be observed from the front and back. The patient may be asked to stand on tip-toe while the doctor examines the shape and functioning of each foot. In some cases the physician may order an X-ray, CT (computed tomography) scan, or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan.

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Non Surgical Treatment

Flat feet and fallen arches can be treated effectively by wearing an orthotic insert in your shoes. Orthotics can be custom-made and prescribed by your foot specialist (podiatrist), or you can use a so called pre-made foot orthotic. Most people do not require expensive custom-made orthotics to combat excess pronation, unless they have a specific medical foot condition. Orthotic insoles were developed to correct excess pronation, thereby providing sustainable, long-lasting pain relief to many aches and pains in a natural way. Comfort, Casual and Sports are products which promote excellent biomechanical control of the foot.

Surgical Treatment

Adult Acquired Flat Foot

Fallen arches may occur with deformities of the foot bones. Tarsal coalition is a congenital condition in which the bones of the foot do not separate from one another during development in the womb. A child with tarsal coalition exhibits a rigid flat foot, which can be painful, notes the patient information website eOrthopod. Surgery may prove necessary to separate the bones. Other foot and ankle conditions that cause fallen arches may also require surgery if noninvasive treatments fail to alleviate pain and restore normal function.

Prevention

Donning a first-rate pair of arch supports, therapeutic socks and proper footwear before heading out to enjoy hours of holiday fun is one option to consider. Your podiatrist can help you find just the right ones. Once you have them on, they?ll help ease the amount of pressure being put on your body and keep the blood flowing in the right direction. While you?re standing in line, consider doing a bit of exercise as well. We?re not talking about channeling your inner Jack LaLanne here. Otherwise, you might attract the attention of the mall security guards. Simple ankle rotations and walking in place may help to reduce edema and give your flat feet a bit of a break. If you happen to be in a shopping mall or center where foot massages are available, take advantage of them periodically. They are likely to make you feel better and it?s a great excuse to carve out a few quiet moments for yourself. If you can?t visit a professional, tuck a personal foot massager into your purse. That way, you can lightly massage your own feet during the car ride home. Lastly, there are certain foods and nutritional supplements available that may reduce edema caused by standing on flat feet for hours at a time. The list includes potassium rich foods like raisins, bananas, baby carrots, nuts and yogurt. So, you may want to pack a snack for those trips to the mall or hit the food court before you hit the stores.

After Care

Time off work depends on the type of work as well as the surgical procedures performed. . A patient will be required to be non-weight bearing in a cast or splint and use crutches for four to twelve weeks. Usually a patient can return to work in one to two weeks if they are able to work while seated. If a person's job requires standing and walking, return to work may take several weeks. Complete recovery may take six months to a full year. Complications can occur as with all surgeries, but are minimized by strictly following your surgeon's post-operative instructions. The main complications include infection, bone that is slow to heal or does not heal, progression or reoccurrence of deformity, a stiff foot, and the need for further surgery. Many of the above complications can be avoided by only putting weight on the operative foot when allowed by your surgeon.
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