Flat foot, also known as fallen arches or pes planus, is a common condition in which the arches of the feet are significantly flattened, causing the entire sole of the foot to come into contact with the ground when standing. Normally, the foot’s arches help distribute body weight and absorb shock during walking and other activities. However, in individuals with flat feet, this arch structure is reduced or absent, which can lead to biomechanical issues, discomfort, and pain.
There are different types of flat foot, each with its own underlying causes and characteristics:
Flexible Flat Foot: This is the most common type of flat foot. In individuals with flexible flat feet, the arch appears normal when the person is sitting or standing on their toes, but it collapses when they stand with their full weight on their feet. This type of flat foot is often hereditary and tends to run in families. It may not cause significant pain or functional problems in many cases, but it can contribute to discomfort and fatigue during prolonged periods of standing or walking.
Rigid Flat Foot: In this type, the arch remains flattened even when the person is standing on their toes. Rigid flat foot is usually caused by structural abnormalities in the bones of the foot or ankle, such as tarsal coalition (abnormal fusion of two or more tarsal bones). Rigid flat foot can be more symptomatic and may lead to pain, limited mobility, and increased risk of other foot problems.
Acquired Flat Foot: This type of flat foot develops later in life and is often the result of factors such as injury, obesity, pregnancy, or conditions like posterior tibial tendon dysfunction (PTTD). PTTD is a condition where the tendon that supports the arch becomes weakened or damaged, leading to a progressive flattening of the arch and resulting in pain and instability.
Congenital Flat Foot: Some individuals are born with flat feet due to genetic factors or developmental issues. Congenital flat foot might be associated with other medical conditions or syndromes.
Treatment for flat feet depends on the type of flat foot, the severity of symptoms, and the underlying causes. Here are some general approaches:
Conservative Measures: Supportive footwear with proper arch support and cushioning can help alleviate discomfort. Custom orthotic inserts or arch supports can also be beneficial in providing additional support and improving foot function.
Physical Therapy: Stretching and strengthening exercises can help improve muscle function and alleviate pain. Physical therapy may be particularly useful for flexible flat feet.
Weight Management: Maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce stress on the feet and alleviate symptoms.
Medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications might provide temporary relief from pain and discomfort.
Surgery: In severe cases or when conservative measures are ineffective, surgical intervention might be considered. Surgical options vary based on the specific type of flat foot and its underlying causes.
It’s important to consult a medical professional if you suspect you have flat feet or are experiencing related symptoms. Proper diagnosis and treatment can help manage discomfort and prevent further complications.