The term "flat feet" refers to a condition where the arch in the sole of the foot is absent. Flat feet are sometimes called fallen arches. The condition occurs when the sole is entirely in contact with the floor as the individual stands upright.
What causes flat feet?:
There are several potential causes for flat feet such as:
1. Tendon Dysfunction
The most common cause of flat feet is damage to the posterior tibial tendon. The posterior tibial tendon travels from within the calf and is connected to bones within the foot. The posterior tibial tendon's main function is to hold up the arch during the act of walking. Inflammation or tearing of the tendon can cause the arch's collapse. Posterior tibial tendon problems are more common among people over 40. Unlike some other causes of flat feet, this kind of flat foot can occur suddenly and might only affect only one foot.
2. Injured Ligaments
Injuries to the bones, ligaments, and cartilage in the foot can cause it to flatten. Injuries can include dislocations and fractures, all of which can contribute to the flattening of the foot.
Rheumatoid arthritis can affect the ligaments in the foot. The result is that the foot changes shape, which can include flattening of the sole.
Diabetes causes a condition called Charcot foot, in which the bones in the foot are weakened. Because it can damage the nerves, patients with diabetes can experience a particularly severe form of arch collapse. They won't feel as much pain as people who don't have nerve damage, so they may not take steps to remedy the problem, which results in more extensive damage to foot joints.
Types of Flat Feet
The types of flat feet can be divided into four general categories.
With flexible flat feet, the arches are visible when the individual isn't standing but disappear when weight is placed on the feet. People with this condition develop it during childhood or their teens. Flexible flat feet affect both feet and worsen with age.
People with rigid flat feet have no arches whether they are standing or not. Like flexible flat feet, rigid flat feet develop in an individual's youth and get worse over time.
3. Adult Acquired Flat Foot
Arches can collapse in a person's adulthood, usually because of posterior tibial tendon damage. If the arch suddenly falls, this can cause the foot to turn outward. Adult acquired fallen arches may only affect one foot.
4. Vertical Talus
The condition in some infants that stops the formation of arches is called vertical talus. It occurs because the talus bone in the ankle is not in the position necessary to form the arch.
Treatments for Flat Feet
There is no need to treat flat feet unless they are causing discomfort or pain. The most effective treatments include:
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are among the more effective classes of medication for treating the pain caused by flat feet. However it should be noted that this may just be a temporary pain relief and not a lasting sustainable solution like custom foot orthotics.
2. Physical Therapy
Patients can use physical therapies to improve mobility and strengthen muscles and tendons. This is particularly effective when used as part of a treatment strategy like using custom foot orthotics for support while allowing muscles to strengthen through physical therapy.
3. Support and Custom Foot Orthotics
One of the most effective, and easily accessible solutions for flat feet is the use of supportive devices like braces, specially-made shoes, or custom foot orthotics.
Surgical options may be appropriate if other treatments are found to be ineffective and in severe cases. Surgery for flat feet can include reconstructing the arch with titanium inserts, but this option may be extreme and should be considered only when custom foot orthotics and other solutions have been exhausted.
If an individual experiences pain or trouble walking because of flat feet, they should consult a healthcare provider. They will be able to recommend the right solutions that may range from non-surgical options like orthotics to surgery.