Flat feet means the loss of natural curve in the arch of feet, and the whole feet touches the ground on standing. Normally the central part of the foot does not touch the ground due to the curve present and only toes and heel make contact with ground. The flat feet hamper the normal walking and running and distort the gait. The good thing is that it is a painless deformity and bad news is that it is very common. It may be congenital in origin (present from birth) or may be a result of some foot injury or trauma that resulted in destruction of arch of foot. The condition is also called as ‘fallen arches’. The flat feet usually do not require a medical treatment unless they are affecting other foot parts like heels and joints due to deformity in foot alignment.
Usually flat feet are asymptomatic and do not cause the major associated signs and symptoms. However, complications can arise in some cases. The ligaments, muscles and other fleshy structures bear a constant stretch that can cause a pain and tissue injury. Pain gets worse on walking as more strain is put on foot ligaments and muscles. Pain is the main and almost only symptom in this case. The pain may be felt on arch of feet, on sides of feet, in knee, hip or back area or in the calf region of legs. Shoes usually wear out more quickly in people with flat feet as the uneven distributions of weight cause the feet to over pronate. Ankle joint structures and Achilles tendon are also affected due to over pronation of feet.
What causes the feet to become flat?
The major causes of flat feet are:
- Congenital absence of foot arch
- Muscle weakness (due to age, injury or strain)
- Wearing improper shoes
- Tearing of foot tendons
- Inherited from parents
- Arthritis or other bone problems
- Nervous disorders
- Old age
- Tendons strain
Treating the flat feet:
As mentioned above, the flat feet do not cause any discernible problems in most cases. However if there is a complaint of pain due to flat feet, following measures can be taken: Orthotics: These are the specific devices designed for feet to reduce the complications of different feet deformities. Although these devices don’t cure the flat feet; but they do reduce the complications of the flat feet and relieve the difficulty and pain while moving feet. Changing footwear: Buying the best fitted shoes helps to decrease the problems of flat feet. Exercises: The stretch exercises are of great help in strengthening the ligaments and muscles and hence they cure as well as prevent the flat feet. Tendons get strong and other serious problems are avoided by adapting some exercises on regular basis. Surgery: If conventional and household methods fail to relieve pain, the surgery is ultimate option then. It is very rare to perform surgery only to cure flat feet, but it may be performed when flat feet cause some other destruction in feet.