18 Nov Find Out Everything About Flat Feet
Here’s a fun fact: all babies have flat feet when they are born.
It’s when you have flat feet as a grown up and it causes pain that it becomes an issue. People with flat feet, also known as ‘fallen arches’, have either no arch in their feet or one that is very low. This means that the entire soles of the feet touch the floor.
As our podiatrists at footinjuryclinic explain, your foot is a complex structure of 33 joints which hold 26 different bones together, plus over a hundred muscles, tendons, and ligaments. The arch provides a spring to your step and helps distribute your body weight across the feet and legs. The structure of the arches determines how you walk. Your arches need to be sturdy and flexible to adapt to a variety of surfaces and stresses. When you have flat feet, they may roll inwards when standing or moving. This is called overpronation and it may also cause the feet to point outward.
Flat Feet in Childhood
Flat feet can be caused by the arches in the feet not developing properly during childhood. While all babies are born with flat feet (the baby fat hides the developing arch), in time, the arch should develop normally. Having flat feet in early childhood does not mean that a person will always have flat feet. Most of us develop a more visible arch by 10 years old. A family history may increase the likelihood of having flat feet – yes, it is hereditary.
Another point to note: If a child has flat feet as a result of incorrect bone development or a condition such as spina bifida, a doctor will need to treat the underlying cause.
Flat feet in Adulthood
The arches in your feet can also fall over time and flat feet can develop with age. Years of wear and tear can cause the posterior tibial tendon to weaken. This tendon runs along the inside of your ankle and helps support your arch. Over time, this tendon can become inflamed, called tendonitis, or tear after overuse. Damage to the tendon may cause the foot arch to flatten and cause pain due to strained muscles and connecting ligaments.
Common Causes of Flat Feet
- Genetic factors: Flat feet can pass from parents to children – it is usually hereditary
- Weak arches: The foot arch is visible when a person sits but the foot flattens onto the ground when they stand
- Foot or ankle injury: These can sometimes also lead to flat feet
- Damage to the posterior tibial tendon: This is the tendon that supports the foot’s arch and if it gets injured, it can result in flat feet.
- Health factors: Obesity, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, or arthritis can increase the risk of developing flat feet
Treatment for Flat Feet
It must be noted that if your flat feet does not cause pain or problems, you don’t need to have any medical or physical intervention. However, if it causes pain in your feet, legs and the rest of your body (e.g. when you go for a long walk or a run), it’s important to seek help from our podiatrists.
There is no cure, but you will get a treatment plan to manage the condition. Make an appointment to see our podiatrists if:
- Your flat feet have developed recently
- You have pain in the feet or lower limbs
- Your symptoms do not improve with supportive, well-fitted footwear
- Your feet feel rigid, heavy and unwieldy
Our podiatrists can diagnose fallen arches by examining your feet from the front and back and observing your feet as you stand and walk. They may recommend specific exercises to manage the symptoms.
You can prevent the pain from worsening by wearing shoes that fit well. Fitted insoles and orthotics or custom-designed arch supports may relieve pressure on the arch and reduce pain if the feet roll too far inward.
People with posterior tibial tendonitis might also benefit from inserting a wedge into their footwear along the inside edge of the orthotic. This should relieve some of the load that the body places on the tendon tissue.