Flat feet also known as pes planus is a physiological malformation that occurs with the arches of the feet being closer to the ground than normal.
Flat feet and fallen arches are necessarily the same thing, fallen Arches is the term used to describe acquired flat feet in adults.
Adults who had normal feet from birth but develop lower arches later on in life due to a particular medical condition or injury are said to have fallen arches. There are two general types of flat feet:
- Flexible flat foot: here the foot arch is present while the foot is not in contact with any surface (either sitting or standing) but the arch disappears immediately the foot is put on any surface I.e. during sitting or standing.
- True / rigid flat foot: there is no arch on the foot, regardless of whether the foot is at rest or is placed on a surface.
What causes flat feet?
Flat foot, like any other health problem, is caused by a number of conditions that result in over-pronation of the foot and can be either;
Congenial: flat feet that occur during a child’s growth in the womb or in infants. Note that children are born without arches on their feet but mature to grow them at around 3 years of age.
There are many factors that that lead to the development of flat feet in children which can include congenitally fused foot bones, hyper-mobility, loose foot ligaments, congenital vertical talus (congenital flat foot), extreme bowing of calf bones, and other structural or developmental disorders.
Acquired flat feet (fallen arches): flat feet occurring later in life, also called fallen arches occur during the aging process or as a result of some type of injury or health condition.
Several causes of fallen arches include;
- Being overweight
- Foot nerve problems
- Dislocated or broken bones in the foot
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Overstretched, torn or inflamed tendons
How do I know if I have flat Feet or fallen arches?
The diagnosis of flat feet is made by a podiatrist, who is a foot specialist.
Flat feet are fairly easy to spot, you can personally perform a visual inspection of your feet to know if you are flat-footed. There are other tests that can be used to find out if a person is flat-footed and to what degree but it is better the tests are performed by a trained professional. These tests include;
- The wet footprint test
- Tiptoe test
- Shoe inspection test
- The “too many toes” test
At times in cases of extreme flat footedness, a podiatrist may need to perform certain imagines tests like X-rays, MRI, and Ultrasound to know what part of the foot is a problem area.
Effects of having flat feet
Flat foot presents with foot pain that occurs at the top, bottom, or outside of the foot after walking or running.
There can also be ankle burn or ankle pain after walking or running with or without swelling.
Apart from other associated issues like wearing down of shoes much faster than normal and foot pain when wearing heels, long term flat feet can lead to:
- Foot deformation
- Knee and lower back pain
- Vertebrae misalignment
- Uneven distribution of weight
- Plantar fasciitis.
Flat feet treatment
There are several ways to treat or alleviate the issues that come with flat foot these include;
Surgery: reconstructive surgery is the most extreme method of treatment for flat foot and is used for people with extremely low arches which cannot be supported effectively with orthotics or other forms of treatment.
Flat feet occurring as a result of a deformity, damaged foot tendons, or resulting extreme heel arthritis are treated preferentially with surgery.
Flat feet Insoles: insoles for flat feet are the easiest and one of the cheapest means of treating and living with flat feet.
Insoles are like socks with special support to account for the structural deficiency in flat feet to make wearing shoes and other physical activities easier and less painful. Insoles are much cheaper than getting surgery or orthotics (specially made shoes).
They are also reusable and there are several forms of insoles based on the form of activity, need, or severity of the condition.
Exercise for flat feet: There are several fallen arches exercises you can try out which can be done easily in the comfort of your home.
These exercises help with restoring mobility and reducing pain in the foot. Several exercises for flat foot or fallen arches you can try out include:
- Foot gymnastics
- Arch lifts
- Heel stretches
- Runner’s stretch
- Calf raises
- Toe raises and
- Feet massages
Flat feet is a fairly common health condition and can be treated effectively if treatment starts early.
If you already have flat feet or suspect the arches on your feet are progressively falling, please visit a podiatrist and start practicing some of the exercises for flat feet.