Flat feet, which are sometimes referred to as fallen arches, occur when there is either a very low arch in the foot or the arch is nonexistent. Most people with flat feet don’t experience any problems and don’t require treatment. However, if you are experiencing pain in your feet or ankles, it is important to see a podiatrist and have them assess the situation. There are both conservative and surgical options available for those who do need treatment.
Causes of Flat Feet
Flat feet are considered normal in infants and toddlers because the foot’s arch has yet to have a chance to develop. Children often have what is known as flexible flatfoot, which is a condition where the arch is visible when they are sitting or standing on their tiptoes but disappears when they stand normally. In most cases, a child will outgrow flexible flatfoot with no problems.
In adults, flatfoot can be caused by posterior tibial tendon dysfunction or injuries to the middle of the foot. Adult-acquired flatfoot is more common in women over the age of 40, as well as those who are pregnant. Obesity, diabetes, uncontrolled hypertension, and rheumatoid arthritis also increase a person’s risk of developing flat feet.
How to Tell If You Have Flat Feet
Determining if you have flat feet is a simple process. Get your feet damp, then step on a brown paper shopping bag or a piece of cardboard. If you can see your entire sole, you have flat feet. If you are only able to see about half of your arch, you have a normal foot with a medium arch.
Your shoes can also be useful in helping to confirm whether you have flat feet. Grab a pair of sneakers that you’ve worn for several months, then look closely at the treads. If they are more worn down on the inside than the outside, this suggests that you overpronate when you walk—which is a telltale sign of flat feet.
Some symptoms that are associated with flat feet include:
- Pain or discomfort inside your ankles or feet
- Difficulty walking or standing without pain
- Feet that turn outward as the ankle turns inward (overpronation)
- Pain in the lower back and hips
- Poor posture
How a Podiatrist Can Help
If you are experiencing pain that is affecting your ability to complete daily activities, it is best to contact your podiatrist. Flat feet are diagnosed with a physical examination. Your podiatrist will look for features that indicate flat feet. They may also ask you to stand on your toes or jump up and down to see if there is any pain or instability. An imaging test such as an X-ray or MRI may be recommended to determine the severity of the condition.
Orthotics are a popular conservative treatment option for flat feet. Orthotics are devices that fit inside your shoes and help to support the arch of your foot. Custom orthotics provide a higher level of support when compared to over-the-counter products because they are designed to fit the specific contours of your foot.
Your podiatrist may also suggest exercises you can do at home to help to stretch tight muscles and ligaments. People with flat feet often have a shortened Achilles tendon, which can cause pain if they do not stretch before engaging in physical activity.
Surgery for flat feet is only recommended when you are experiencing significant pain, and conservative treatment options have failed to provide the desired level of relief. Flat foot reconstruction involves reshaping the bone and ligaments in the foot to create an arch. After this type of surgery, you will need to stay off your feet for six to eight weeks. Complete recovery may take up to one year.
Schedule an Appointment With an Experienced Omaha Podiatrist
When you’re suffering from foot and heel pain, our Omaha podiatrists will help get you back on your feet by creating a treatment plan customized to suit your specific needs. Complete our contact form or call our office at 402-333-8856 today to set up an appointment with Dr. Michael Cullen or Dr. Nathan Penney.