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Working With Fallen Arches

Overview

Flat Feet

There are three types of flat feet: flexible flatfoot, painful rigid flatfoot, and spasmodic flatfoot. Flexible flat feet have some arch, even if the arch only appears while the person is flexing the foot or standing on their toes. Flexible flat feet may not cause pain or require treatment. Painful rigid flatfoot, on the other hand, is abnormal and causes pain, stiffness, and the inability to flex the foot. This often indicates that there is a problem with the bones in the foot, a disease is present, or an injury has occurred. Spasmodic flatfoot involves the foot being forced outward by spasmodic contractions of the peroneal muscle.

Causes

Fallen arches may be caused by a number of causes, including increased elastin during pregnancy, arthritis, injury, excessive stress on the foot, fused bones in the foot, or an extra bone. They may cause not only foot pain, but also pain in the legs, knees, and back and a loss of mobility. The condition is most often treated with orthotics, structures placed in the shoes to support the feet, but this may not be enough for severe cases. Exercises to strengthen and rebuild the arches can also be helpful. Surgery is sometimes the best method of treatment, as it can completely rebuild the arches and has lasting results, but it is quite expensive and considered a last resort.

Symptoms

Flat feet can cause a myriad of symptoms, from experiencing pain in the foot, heels, arch, calves, the shin, the knee, the hip and into the lower back due to overworking of the hip flexors or they may find it hard to stand on tip toes.

Diagnosis

An examination of the foot is enough for the health care provider to diagnose flat foot. However, the cause must be determined. If an arch develops when the patient stands on his or her toes, the flat foot is called flexible and no treatment or further work-up is necessary. If there is pain associated with the foot or if the arch does not develop with toe-standing, x-rays are necessary. If a tarsal coalition is suspected, a CT scan is often ordered. If a posterior tibial tendon injury is suspected, your health care provider may recommend an MRI.

arch supports for high arches

Non Surgical Treatment

There are home remedies to prevent or manage pain from fallen arches or flat feet. Here are some areas to consider. Wear footwear or shoe inserts that are appropriate to your activity. When pain occurs, try at-home treatment of rest, ice, and over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, or NSAIDS, such as ibuprofen. Ask your doctor or a physical therapist to show you stretches that can prepare you for feet-intensive activities. Limit or treat risk factors that can make fallen arches or flat feet worse, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. Avoid activities that put excessive stress on your feet, such as running on roads. Avoid high-impact sports such as basketball, hockey, soccer, and tennis. Know when to get help. When pain is severe or interferes with activities, it's time to see the doctor for a thorough exam and treatment.

Surgical Treatment

Flat Foot

Surgical procedures for flat feet vary depending on the root cause of the condition. Surgical correction to control pronation may include bone implants or Achilles tendon lengthening. Tendon transfer, which is a procedure to re-attach a tendon to another area of bone, may also be used to reduce pronation and improve foot function.

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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