There are two types of flatfeet. Flexible flatfoot means that the foot has some arch, even if it only appears when the person flexes the feet or stands on the toes. This is a normal condition that is generally painless and does not require treatment. Stiff, inflexible, or painful flatfoot is an abnormal condition and may indicate a bone abnormality in the foot, a disease, or an injury. Flatfeet are a normal condition in infants and toddlers. This is partly the result of fatty deposits along the bottom of the foot that go away as the child grows. It is also because the ligaments in the foot have not fully developed. Flat-footedness in children is generally painless and does not interfere with walking or activity. In fact, as children learn to walk, the soft tissues in the foot tighten and form the arch. Most children develop arches by late childhood. When flatfeet continue into adulthood, most cases are considered normal. Incidence of flatfeet in the general population is unknown.
A Rigid Flat Foot may be congenital, where the arch never develops when growing. A Rigid Flat Foot can also be acquired due to disease processes involving inflammatory arthritis, neurological conditions such as Charcot neuro-arthropathy or trauma. A Flexible Flat Foot (fallen arches) may also be congenital where excessive pronation occurs for shock absorption. In some cases this condition may be the result of neurological disease or injury involving muscle weakness, hyper-mobile joints or ligament laxity. These conditions may allow for excessive pronation causing the arch to fall when weight bearing or during activity. Both of these foot types can result in posture mal-alignment involving the lower back, hips, knees and feet which may result in pain in those areas.
Symptoms that should be checked by a pediatrician include foot pain, sores or pressure areas on the inner side of the foot, a stiff foot, limited side-to-side foot motion, or limited up-and-down ankle motion. For further treatment you should see a pediatric orthopedic surgeon or podiatrist experienced in childhood foot conditions.
It is important for people with foot pain to know if they have flat feet. The following tests can help you determine your arch type. When you get out of a swimming pool, look at your footprint on the concrete. The front of the foot will be joined to the heel by a strip. If your foot is flat, then the strip is the same width as the front of the foot, creating a footprint that looks like a stretched out pancake. With a normal arch, the strip is about half the width of the front of the foot. If you have a high arch, only a thin strip connects the front of the foot with the heel. Put your shoes on a flat table and view them at eye level from behind. See if the sole is worn evenly. A flat foot will cause more wear on the inside of the sole, especially in the heel area. The shoe will easily rock side to side. A flat foot will also cause the upper part of the shoe to lean inward over the sole. Both shoes should wear about the same way. If you have pain in one foot, you should make sure you don't have a fallen arch on that side. There are two good tests you can perform at home to detect this problem. Place your fingertips on a wall that you are directly facing and stand on your tiptoes on one foot. If you can't do it, a fallen arch may be the culprit. Stand with your feet parallel. Have someone stand in back of you and look at your feet from behind. You can also do it yourself if you stand with your back to a mirror. Normally, only the pinky toe is visible from behind. If one foot is flatter than the other, the 4th and sometimes the 3rd toe on that foot can also be seen.
Why do arches fall?
Non Surgical Treatment
If you have flat feet (pes planus) it does not mean you will have problems or pain. Flat feet are a common condition. Flat feet are defined as an abnormal lowering of the medial longitudinal arch. There is often a hereditary component to the development of flat feet. Flat feet are more common in certain ethnic groups. Flat feet usually occurs equally in both feet and become apparent at an early age. Flat feet can initially be asymptomatic, but can become progressively symptomatic with age. Some flat feet never become bothersome. The medial arch is unstable in flexible flatfoot. The foot can bend as the heel lifts of the ground. This creates stress on the surrounding soft-tissues and joints creating tired, sore arches. The instability of the foot can create abnormal stress that flows up the leg which results in pain in the legs, knees, hips and lower back. Patients with flat feet often present to the chiropodist/podiatrist with problems that are indirectly caused by their foot structure.
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.