Flat feet, also known as ?fallen arches? are often viewed as problematic simply because they look abnormal, the main arch of the foot, the medial longitudinal arch, has collapsed. Though flat feet are by no means normal, they are often the result of some other underlying condition or weakness rather than a problem with the actual arch itself that has collapsed. Conventional treatment involving foot support either via supportive footwear, orthotics, or some other bracing system is usually more disadvantageous than beneficial and surgery is rarely the answer.
Poor quality footwear. Excess weight. Commonly occurs in people over 50. Overuse or strain by athletes, especially runners. Plantar fasciitis can be caused by overuse of the plantar fascia due to walking or running in poorly supported footwear. It?s not surprising to note that healthy, active adults are the most common victims of plantar fasciitis: runners, joggers, basketball players, tennis and racquetball players? basically any sport that requires quick or repetitive movements combined with impact on the heel and arch of the foot can lead to plantar fasciitis. Seniors are also at risk due to the ligament and bone issues common to those of older years. Another leading cause of plantar fasciitis is being overweight or obese. In this case, while a sports-related injury may not be to blame, just the daily stress of walking with too much excess weight straining the plantar fascia ligaments can lead to inflammation and painful heel pain. Anyone whose job requires long periods of standing or walking is prone to develop plantar fasciitis as well. For those who develop arch strain or arch pain as a result of structural problems like flat feet, they require arch support that will accommodate their individual needs.
Flat feet can exhibit a variety of symptoms, from mild to severe. The extent of the flat foto does not always correlate with the extent of symptoms. Patients may complain of arch pain and heel pain. Commonly there is pain on the outside of the foot, where the foot meets the ankle as the collapse foot abuts against the ankle. Muscle cramps within the foot, and onto the leg (shin splints) may occur. In general, patients have pain with activity, such as walking or running. The pain may be deep and focal to a generalized widespread achy feeling. Irritation from shoe gear can cause redness and swelling. Common reasons patients seek treatment are pain, interference with walking or activities, difficulty fitting shoes, swelling, and notice a change in appearance of the foot and/or unsightly appearance.
A professional therapist may use tinels test to diagnose tarsal tunnel syndrome. This involves tapping the nerve just behind the medial malleolus or bony bit of the ankle with a rubber hammer. Pain indicates a positive test. Sometimes it is initially mistaken for plantar fasciitis which also causes pain from the inside heel and throughout the arch of the foot. Neural symptoms (such as tingling or numbness) as well as the location of tenderness when touching the area should help to easily distinguish between the conditions.
Non Surgical Treatment
In mild cases patients would benefit from custom made semi rigid full length custom made foot orthoses fitted into appropriate supportive footwear, preferably with laces or a velcro straps. In more severe cases patients may require a custom made Arizona lace up ankle brace or a posterior shell Ankle Foot Orthosis. These offer significantly more control and support than the foot orthoses. In severe cases surgery may be required to repair the tibialis posterior tendon and realign the foot and ankle, or fuse the subtalar joint. It is important to note there are many risks involved in having surgery and these must be considered prior to going ahead.
If pain or foot damage is severe, your doctor may recommend surgery. Procedures may include the following. Fusing foot or ankle bones together (arthrodesis). Removing bones or bony growths also called spurs (excision). Cutting or changing the shape of the bone (osteotomy). Cleaning the tendons' protective coverings (synovectomy). Adding tendon from other parts of your body to tendons in your foot to help balance the "pull" of the tendons and form an arch (tendon transfer). Grafting bone to your foot to make the arch rise more naturally (lateral column lengthening).
Strap the arches into the anatomically correct positions with athletic tape and leave them like this for some time. If the fallen arches are an issue with the muscular structure, this may give the muscles an opportunity to strengthen. This is definitely not a fallen arches cure all the time but it can help prevent it more times than not. Ask a doctor or physical therapists to show you how to do this taping. Find shoes that fit. This may require that you get your foot measured and molded to ensure that the shoe will fit. Shoes that are too big, too tight or too short, may not directly cause the fallen arches, but they can assist with the damage to the area. These shoes should have thick cushioning inside and have plenty of room for your toes. Walk without shoes as much as possible. Shoes directly assist with weakening and distorting the arches of the feet so going without shoes can actually help strengthen your arches and prevent fallen arches. Walking on hard and bumpy surfaces barefooted makes the muscles in your feet strengthen in order to prevent injury. It is a coping mechanism by your body. Insert heel cups or insoles into the shoes that you wear the most. Many people wear uncomfortable shoes to work and these are the same shoes that cause their arches the most problems. Inserting the heel cups and insoles into these shoes can prevent fallen arches from occurring. Many people place these inserts into all their shoes to ensure support. Ask a medical professional, either your doctor or a physical therapist, about daily foot exercises that may keep the arches stronger than normal. Many times, you can find exercises and stretches on the Internet on various websites. Curling your toes tightly and rotating your feet will help strengthen your longitudinal arches. Relax your feet and shake them for a minute or so before you do any arch exercises. This will loosen the muscles in your feet that stay tight due to normal daily activities. Wear rigid soled sandals whenever possible to provide a strong support for your arches. Wooden soled sandals are the best ones if available. Walk or jog on concrete as much as you can. This will create a sturdy support for your arches. Running or walking in sandy areas or even on a treadmill, does not give rigid support. Instead, these surfaces absorb the step, offering no support for arches.
Start in an L-Sit position. (If you?re hips and hamstrings are tight sit up on a box or phone book to be able to achieve a tall back position. You can even sit on a box with your back supported against a wall!) Keeping the legs straight, but not locked, reach both heels out away from your body to ?Flex? the ankles. Try to avoid pulling back with the toes to flex. Keep the toes relaxed and lead from the heel to hinge the foot into the flexed position. Hold the flexed foot and breathe. Take 3-5 breaths and see if you can reach farther through the heel to deepen the flex on each exhale. To transition to the pointed position, begin by pointing the foot to move the ankles as far as possible in the other direction. Once the ankles have reached their endpoint, use the muscles along the sole of the foot to point the toes. Inhale to continue lengthening out through the top of the foot, exhale to deepen the contraction under the sole of the foot to point the toes. Take 3-5 breaths. Then release the toes, and begin reaching out through the heel to hinge the ankle into the flexed position to repeat the exercise. Continue to flex and the point for 5-10 repetitions.