Do you have flatfeet? Are you not sure? One way to tell is to answer this: Do you have bunions, hammertoes, painful arches, heel pain or pain on the inside of your ankle? If you answered yes to any of these questions, it is very likely that you have flat feet, as this foot type is prone to such problems.
When Arches Collapse
Flatfeet can be caused by many factors including genetics (you were born with it), shoe wear, trauma, systemic diseases (rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, etc.), tendon ruptures, and more. A flatfoot is called this because the arch collapses and the rear part of the foot rolls in. Sometimes, this is not obvious until you stand or walk. The major tendon that supports the arch, the posterior tibial tendon, starts to work harder and longer than it should to help support the arch. Despite its efforts, the arch, or bone structure, collapses. The tendon (which normally acts a rope effectively supporting the arch) becomes irritated and can start to unwind and tear (in effect becoming more like spaghetti). As it unwinds, it becomes ineffective in supporting the arch and the arch can collapse more. If this is a long standing problem, the tendon can eventually tear across and separate. As the foot continues to collapse the joints are no longer in good positons and can cause an increased risk of cartilage wear and tear (osteoarthritis).
Bunions and hammertoes can be a symptom of flatfeet. Because the posterior tibial tendon is working so hard, it can recruit some of the tendons in the area; especially the ones that attach to the toes. This can cause them to pull in different ways and lead to the downward pull of the tips of the toes (hammertoes). Bunions are caused similarly with the long bone behind the big toe being shifted away from the other long bones because of the muscular imbalance.
Treating Flat Feet
Flatfeet can be effectively treated with orthotics. This is a removable foot insole that can easily be moved from shoe to shoe. They are made and prescribed based on your individual needs and foot type. There are two major kinds: custom and pre-fabricated. Custom orthotics are made from impressions of your feet to address your specific problems. The pre-fabricated are medical grade orthotics, but they are pre-made for general conditions. We can modify them for you but they are not designed for individual needs.
Braces can also be used if your flat foot condition is severe. This is similar to orthotics, but also helps to support the arch and ankle. The brace can be custom molded (a leather brace that would support the ankle and foot) or pre-fabricated (nylon material used more in the short term). Both of these devices would fit into sneakers or other tie shoes to allow you to walk pain-free.
When these conservative methods do not provide relief, there are surgical treatments you can consider, however, these are complicated procedures and are performed only as a last resort when, despite all other conservative care, you are still having pain and are unable to perform your daily activities.
Flatfeet can be a progressive problem with the feet becoming increasingly painful over time. If you are concerned about this possibility, come in to Podiatry Care Specialists, PC and get it evaluated. We have several southeastern PA locations. Call for an appointment today at (877) 905-5907.