Flat feet 

Updated on 26 April 2023

Flat feet 

Unlike a hollow foot, a flat foot has a collapsed arch. Sometimes, people can live with flat feet and not suffer from pain. However, when debilitating symptoms occur, a visit to a podiatric clinic is the best way to relieve problems associated with flat feet. What causes flatfoot? How to fix flat feet?  Read on to learn all about flat feet. 

What are flat feet?

A foot that does not have a formed arch is called a flatfoot. Flat feet can be congenital or develop over time. In infants and young children, their feet are flat by default. The arch only deepens as kids learn to walk. After age six, on average, flat feet should be treated if a child complains of pain while walking or avoids running. Adults may live with a congenital flatfoot without suffering from it. However, acquired flat feet, meaning that they have developed over time, can cause pain and affect posture. Several factors can cause arch collapse, some of which are indicators of underlying pathologies.

Is this a common problem?

Flat feet are a common problem in children. In adults, flatfoot is common and often doesn’t cause any complications.

What are the disadvantages of flat feet?

Flat feet can lead to imbalances in the musculoskeletal system of the affected person. This can create pain not only in the feet and legs but also in the pelvis and back. In the long term, untreated flat feet can lead to plantar fascia inflammation and heel deformity.

If flatfoot is not treated effectively in the long run, the following issues may arise:

Different causes of flatfoot

Hereditary flat feet may be related to ligaments that are too flexible and muscles that are too weak. A child with flat feet may fall more often than average and have difficulty keeping their balance. In adulthood, this condition may be exacerbated by weight gain. The pressure exerted on the foot then causes it to collapse. It should be noted that ankle instability also affects the foot arch. As a result, an ankle that tends to turn inward or outward can lead to flat feet. Other factors, including injuries, can also cause this flatfoot. For example, foot trauma that has not appropriately healed may have displaced the bones, which no longer adequately support the foot arch. A degenerative muscle disease may cause flat feet due to a condition affecting the joints, such as osteoarthritis

H3 – Who is most at risk of being affected by flatfoot?

Athletes who have suffered foot trauma, people who are overweight, and patients with bone or muscle disease are more likely to have flat feet.

Symptoms of flatfoot

The most common symptoms of flatfoot are early fatigue during activity, pain in the ball of the foot and a feeling of tightness. It is common for people (adults and children) who suffer from these symptoms to limit walking or running. And for a good reason: the pain increases during exercise. Muscle cramps, as well as ankle and leg pain, can accompany these symptoms. Flat-footed people may feel that they lack balance on their feet. Poor foot posture causes the heels and knees to compensate, rotating inward. The symptoms of flatfoot can spill over to the patient’s lower back, leading to lower back pain.

The diagnosis of flatfoot by chiropodists

Although sometimes visible to the naked eye, a biomechanical exam is necessary to diagnose if a person is flat-footed. A chiropodist evaluates the position of the foot on the ground when the patient is standing still and walking. This also allows the chiropodist to check the alignment of the legs with the ankles and feet. X-rays may be recommended to complete the exam and determine the best treatment plan.

Solutions and treatments offered by chiropodists for flat feet

In children, when the problem of flat feet is taken care of early on, it is easy to correct it by having them wear custom-made orthotics. These orthotics will guide the development of the kids’ feet without hindering them. Allowing children to walk barefoot at home will help strengthen the muscles in the foot’s arch. If this is not enough, a chiropodist can suggest motor skills exercises. These will help relieve pain, imbalance and discomfort. If a child’s flatfoot is too pronounced and affects their daily life, orthopedic shoes can be used instead. These shoes keep the foot and ankle in an ideal position to gradually correct posture. Podiatric follow-ups allow the treatment plan to be modified as the condition evolves.

In adults, gentle and non-invasive methods are also preferred if the patient’s condition allows it. This is why it is recommended first to maintain a healthy weight through nutrition and, if possible, physical activities. Then, muscle-strengthening exercises can be prescribed. To prolong their benefits, it may be advisable to wear custom-made orthotics. If the degree of the arch collapse requires it, a chiropodist may also prescribe wearing orthopedic shoes. However, if the condition is severe and the patient’s daily life is greatly affected, they may be referred for foot surgery.

What is the recovery time?

After flatfoot surgery, it takes one to two months to heal. However, conservative methods require several months of follow-up before flatfoot changes. 

Are there any contraindications to the various treatments?

There are no contraindications to flatfoot treatments using orthotics or strengthening exercises. 

How to fix flat feet

If you are wondering how to fix flat feet, remember that various solutions exist. For one, it is recommended to maintain a healthy weight. When practicing sports, warming up before the session helps to soften the tissues and prepare them to absorb the impacts better. Stretching at the end of the session helps recovery, and it is important to rest to promote muscle repair. These actions help avoid injuries that can lead to foot arch collapse. Paying attention to your choice of shoes can also be a good idea. If the shoes support the feet well and absorb shocks, your feet need to make less effort to compensate. 

Consult a chiropodist for a podiatric assessment

Did you know that leg or back pain can be related to problems in your feet? With a sedentary lifestyle, it can sometimes be more challenging to discern the cause of pain elsewhere than in the foot. A visit to a podiatric clinic can help you take stock of your foot health and determine the causes of these discomforts. Consult the list of podiatric clinics that are members of FootNetwork to plan your next visit. 

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