Fallen Arches Explained

Overview

Flat Foot

When standing, most people have a gap under the arch of their foot. Flat feet, or pes planus is the term used to describe collapsed arches, meaning that the entire sole of the foot rests partially or completely on the ground. A simple way to check to see if you have flat feet is to wet your feet and step onto a dry, flat surface. Step away from your footprint; if you see a complete footprint, you more than likely have flat feet. If you only see toes, the pads of your feet, and your heels, you probably do not have flat feet. People who have flat feet usually roll their feet over to the inner side when they walk. The feet may even appear to point outward because of this movement. In most cases, the condition cannot be prevented.

Causes

Footwear: shoes which limit toe movement; high heels. Barefoot walking may be protective. A tight Achilles tendon or calf muscles (heel cord contracture). This may help to cause Pes Planus, or may contribute to symptoms such as foot pain when there is existing Pes Planus. Obesity. Other bony abnormalities, eg rotational deformities, tibial abnormalities, coalition (fusion) of tarsal bones, equinus deformity. Ligamentous laxity, eg familial, Marfan's syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Down's syndrome. Other factors causing foot pronation, eg hip abductor weakness and genu valgum.

Symptoms

Structural problems in your feet like fallen arches can alter your walking pattern, running pattern and cause pain throughout your body. Clear and accurate assessment of the mechanics of your lower limbs is key to understanding the profound effect that subtle faults in your foot, ankle, knee and hip alignment can cause.

Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical and foot exam will be done. Flat feet can be diagnosed by appearance. To determine if the foot is rigid, you may be asked to do some simple tasks.

pes planus orthotics

Non Surgical Treatment

There are different modalities of treatment that are available to manage flat feet and fallen arches. The type of treatment that is chosen depends upon how severe the condition is and what symptoms the patients are experiencing. Below is a brief description of the available treatment modalities. In the event that the patient is experiencing swelling of the feet, rest and ice application is usually the initial treatment step. Oral anti-inflammatories may be offered which can help reduce inflammation as well as associated pain. Physical therapy has good outcomes and can include different exercises such as stretches and strengthening of the surrounding muscles. Changes in footwear and activity modification are also important when dealing with a painful flat (pronated) foot. These days, orthotic insoles are easily available either over the counter or through your Podiatrist which can effectively help maintain the arch of the foot and reduce the amount of stress placed on the foot. Podiatrists are able to prescribe a variety of different devices from prefabricated to customized and are trained to determine the most appropriate device for each individual. In order to offer the right kind of orthotic insole, podiatrists may perform a test called gait analysis. This involves asking the patient to walk and videoing the different movements that the foot of forms during the walking. Features such as over pronation can be easily seen on this and orthotic insoles can be prescribed to correct the specific abnormalities that are picked up on this analysis. Overall, orthotic treatment can result in a significant improvement in foot movement and reduction in foot discomfort.

Surgical Treatment

Flat Foot

In cases of flat feet that have progressed substantially or have failed to improve with non-surgical treatment, surgery may be required and in some advanced cases, surgery may be the only option. Your foot and ankle surgeon will determine the best approach for you.

Prevention

oll away pain. If you're feeling pain in the arch area, you can get some relief by massaging the bottom of your foot. A regular massage while you're watching TV can do wonders" Stretch out. Doing the same type of stretching exercises that runners do in their warm-up can help reduce arch pain caused by a tight heel cord. One of the best exercises is to stand about three feet from a wall and place your hands on the wall. Leaning toward the wall, bring one foot forward and bend the knee so that the calf muscles of the other leg stretch. Then switch legs. Stretching is particularly important for women who spend all week in heels and then wear exercise shoes or sneakers on weekends. Get measured each time you buy new shoes. Don't assume that since you always wore a particular size, you always will. Too many people try to squeeze into their 'regular' shoe size and wind up with serious foot problems or sores on their feet. When your arch is falling, your feet may get longer or wider and you may or may not feel pain, so getting your foot measured each time you buy shoes is a good indicator of your arch's degeneration. Examine your shoes. If the heel is worn down, replace it. But if the back portion of the shoe is distorted or bent to one side, get yourself into a new pair of supportive shoes like those made specifically for walking. That's because flat feet can affect your walking stride, and failing to replace worn shoes may lead to knee or hip pain.

After Care

Patients may go home the day of surgery or they may require an overnight hospital stay. The leg will be placed in a splint or cast and should be kept elevated for the first two weeks. At that point, sutures are removed. A new cast or a removable boot is then placed. It is important that patients do not put any weight on the corrected foot for six to eight weeks following the operation. Patients may begin bearing weight at eight weeks and usually progress to full weightbearing by 10 to 12 weeks. For some patients, weightbearing requires additional time. After 12 weeks, patients commonly can transition to wearing a shoe. Inserts and ankle braces are often used. Physical therapy may be recommended. There are complications that relate to surgery in general. These include the risks associated with anesthesia, infection, damage to nerves and blood vessels, and bleeding or blood clots. Complications following flatfoot surgery may include wound breakdown or nonunion (incomplete healing of the bones). These complications often can be prevented with proper wound care and rehabilitation. Occasionally, patients may notice some discomfort due to prominent hardware. Removal of hardware can be done at a later time if this is an issue. The overall complication rates for flatfoot surgery are low.
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