Flexible flatfeet are considered normal in young children because babies are not born with a normal arch. The arch may not form fully until sometime between ages 7 and 10. Even in adulthood, 15% to 25% of people have flexible flatfeet. Most of these people never develop symptoms. In many adults who have had flexible flatfeet since childhood, the missing arch is an inherited condition related to a general looseness of ligaments. These people usually have extremely flexible, very mobile joints throughout the body, not only in the feet. Flatfeet also can develop during adulthood. Causes include joint disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis, and disorders of nerve function (neuropathy). Unlike a flexible flatfoot, a rigid flatfoot is often the result of a significant problem affecting the structure or alignment of the bones that make up the foot's arch. Some common causes of rigid flatfeet include. Congenital vertical talus. In this condition, there is no arch because the foot bones are not aligned properly. In some cases, there is a reverse curve (rocker-bottom foot, in which the shape is like the bottom rails of a rocking chair) in place of the normal arch. Congenital vertical talus is a rare condition present at birth. It often is associated with a genetic disorder, such as Down syndrome, or other congenital disorders. The cause is unknown in up to half of cases. Tarsal coalition (peroneal spastic flatfoot). In this inherited condition, two or more of the foot bones are fused together, interfering with the flexibility of the foot and eliminating the normal arch. A rare condition, it often affects several generations of the same family. Lateral subtalar dislocation. Sometimes called an acquired flatfoot, it occurs in someone who originally had a normal foot arch. In a lateral subtalar dislocation, there is a dislocation of the talus bone, located within the arch of the foot. The dislocated talus bone slips out of place, drops downward and sideways and collapses the arch. It usually occurs suddenly because of a high-impact injury related to a fall from a height, a motor vehicle accident or participation in sports, and it may be associated with fractures or other injuries.
Flat feet can be caused by injury, aging, and weight gain. They can cause pain in the feet and may lead to pain in other parts of the body such as the ankles, knees, or hips. For this reason, it behooves us to treat fallen arches. The question becomes how to do so.
Most patients who suffer from flat feet or fallen arches often do not complain of any symptoms whatsoever. However, on some occasions, patients may find that their feet are fatigued fairly easily and following activity on long periods of standing may have a painful foot or arch. On occasions, swelling may be seen on the inner aspect of the foot and performing certain movements may be painful and difficult. Some patients who have flat feet may find that their feet tend to roll in (over-pronate) a lot more when they walk and run. As a result, they may experience damage to the ankle joint and the Achilles tendon, as well as excessive shoe wear.
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.
Non Surgical Treatment
Flexible flat feet that are painless do not require treatment. If you have pain due to flexible flat feet, an orthotic (arch-supporting insert in the shoe) can bring relief. With the increased interest in running, many shoe stores carry shoes for normal feet and pronated feet. The shoes designed for pronated feet make long distance running easier and less tiring because they correct for the abnormality. Rigid or painful flat feet require evaluation by a health care provider. The treatment depends on the cause of the flat feet. For tarsal coalition, treatment starts with rest and possibly a cast. If this fails to improve the pain, surgery may be necessary. For problems with the posterior tibial tendon, treatment may start with rest, anti-inflammatory medications, and shoe inserts or ankle braces. In more advanced cases, surgery may be needed to clean or repair the tendon, or fuse some of the joints of the foot into a corrected position. Flat feet in older adults can be treated with pain relievers, orthotics, and sometimes surgery.
Surgical procedures for flat feet vary depending on the root cause of the condition. Surgical correction to control pronation may include bone implants or Achilles tendon lengthening. Tendon transfer, which is a procedure to re-attach a tendon to another area of bone, may also be used to reduce pronation and improve foot function.