Fallen Arches?

Overview

Flat Foot

Of the many body parts we benignly neglect, our feet may be the most taken for granted. They get us where we need to go, supporting a lot of weight given their size relative to the rest of our bodies. They are structurally complex, comprising 26 bones, 33 joints, and 100+ muscles, tendons, and ligaments apiece. Indeed, over a quarter of the bones in the body are located in the feet. Most human feet have arches much like the ones in some bridges and other architectural structures. And much like these man-made structures, our bipedal arch turns out to be a useful engineering phenomenon. ?The arches distribute weight evenly across the feet and up the legs, and can affect walking. A well-developed arch is balanced between rigidity (for stability and flexibility (for adapting to surfaces). What, then, are the implications of fallen arches, otherwise known as flat feet, where no or little foot arch exists and the instep of the foot touches the ground? There are two types of flat feet. A person with flexible flat feet has some arch, especially when standing on the toes. A person with rigid flat feet has no arch whatsoever. Infants usually have flat feet, with the arch developing in childhood.

Causes

Turning 40 doesn?t necessarily have anything to do with it, but over time you?ve likely engaged in certain activities or developed some unhealthy habits that led to this condition. If you are overweight, you are placing excess burdens on your feet, causing the tendons to strain. Some women experience fallen arches because of weight gain during pregnancy. You also may have damaged these tendons while exercising. If you suffered a serious injury to the foot, you may have weakened the tendons, which can also lead to this development.

Symptoms

The primary symptom of flatfeet is the absence of an arch upon standing. Additional signs of flatfeet include the following. Foot pain. Pain or weakness in the lower legs. Pain or swelling on the inside of the ankle. Uneven shoe wear. While most cases of flatfeet do not cause problems, complications can sometimes occur. Complications include the following, bunions and calluses, inability to walk or run normally, inflammation and pain in the bottom of the foot (plantar fasciitis), tendonitis in the Achilles heel and other ligaments, pain in the ankles, knees, and hips due to improper alignment, shin splints, stress fractures in the lower legs.

Diagnosis

There are a few simple ways to assess your foot type, and most include making an imprint of your footprint. The classic way is to stand on a hard floor surface with wet feet to make a wet foot print. Look at the narrowest part of your footprint, which should be between your heel and ball of your foot. If the print of your foot in this part is less than 10% of the width of the widest part then you are likely to have high arches. more than 10% but less than 25% then your foot profile is probably normal, more than 25% or even the widest part, then you have flat feet.

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Non Surgical Treatment

If the flat foot is rigid and causing problems, you will be referred to a foot specialist. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options include the following. Physical Therapy and Exercises. Physical therapy may relieve discomfort. You may be given a specific stretching and strength program. You may also have treatment to help manage the discomfort. Exercises can help with the strength of the surrounding muscles. It may relieve some of the pressure in the foot. Orthotics are shoe inserts that support the foot. These inserts may help to reduce pain and disability in some people. In mild cases, a well-fitting pair of shoes with arch support may be all that is needed. Flat feet caused by nerve or muscle disease may need special braces. Fallen arches are usually treated using stretching exercises, physical therapy and medication (to reduce inflammation). In extreme cases however, surgery is recommended.

Surgical Treatment

Flat Foot

This is rare and usually only offered if patients have significant abnormalities in their bones or muscles. Treatments include joint fusion, reshaping the bones in the foot, and occasionally moving around tendons in the foot to help balance out the stresses (called tendon transfer).

Prevention

Flatfeet in children are often an inherited family trait, but it may be possible to prevent the condition in some cases. Recent research has shown that there are several social or cultural factors that can cause flatfeet. These factors include the following, obesity, overweight, unnecessary orthopedic treatments, wearing rigid shoes at a young age, In 1992, a study in India of 2300 children aged 4-13 demonstrated a significant difference in the rate of flatfeet among those who wore shoes regularly and those who did not. In this study, wearing inflexible, closed-toe shoes in early childhood was shown to have a negative effect on the normal development of arches. Children who were allowed to go barefoot or who wore light sandals and slippers had a much lower rate of flatfeet. In 1999, a study in Spain of 1181 children aged 4-13 revealed that the use of orthopedic shoes for treatment of flatfeet in children not only failed to correct the problem, but actually worsened the condition by preventing the normal flexing and arch development of bare or lightly protected feet. Finally, in 2006, a study of 835 children aged 3-6 showed significant differences in the rate of flatfeet based on weight, with normal-weight children having lower rates of flatfeet than children who were overweight or obese. Among adults, flatfeet due to injury, disease, or normal aging are not preventable. However, when flatfeet are related to lifestyle factors, such as physical activities, shoe selection, and weight gain, careful attention to these factors may prevent the development of flatfeet.
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