Flat feet (also called pes planus or fallen arches) is a postural deformity in which the arch of the foot collapses, with the entire sole of the foot coming into complete or near-complete contact with the ground. In some individuals (an estimated 20–30% of the general population) the arch simply never develops in one foot (unilaterally) or both feet (bilaterall). The appearance of flat feet is normal and common in infants, partly due to “baby fat” which masks the developing arch and partly because the arch has not yet fully developed. The human arch develops in infancy and early childhood as part of normal muscle, tendon, ligament andbone growth. Training of the feet, especially by foot gymnastics and going barefoot on varying terrain, can facilitate the formation of arches during childhood, with a developed arch occurring for most by the age of four to six years. Flat arches in children usually become proper arches and high arches while the child progresses through adolescence and into adulthood.
Because young children are unlikely to suspect or identify flat feet on their own, it is a good idea for parents or other adult caregivers to check on this themselves. Besides visual inspection, parents should notice whether a child begins to walk oddly or clumsily, for example on the outer edges of the feet, or to limp, during long walks, and to ask the child whether he or she feels foot pain or fatigue during such walks. Children who complain about calf muscle pains or any other pains around the foot area may be developing or have flat feet. Pain or discomfort may also develop in the knee joints. A recent randomized controlled trial found no evidence for the efficacy of treatment of flat feet in children either for expensive prescribed orthoses (shoe inserts). Treatment of flat feet may also be appropriate if there is associated foot or lower leg pain, or if the condition affects the knees or the lower back. Treatment may include using Orthoses such as an arch support, foot gymnastics or other exercises as recommended by apodiatrist/orthotist or physical therapist. In cases of severe flat feet, orthoses should be used through a gradual process to lessen discomfort. Over several weeks, slightly more material is added to the orthosis to raise the arch. These small changes allow the foot structure to adjust gradually, as well as giving the patient time to acclimatise to the sensation of wearing orthoses. Once prescribed, orthoses are generally worn for the rest of the patient’s life.
It is rare to find someone who walks with both feet in perfect alignment. Often we walk on the inside or outsides of our feet, or with our toes or heels rotated inward. These typical walking patterns can cause many problems not just with the feet but also for the whole body as the alignment of the feet sets the foundation for the whole body’s alignment. One of the most common effects of improper alignment is known as flatfoot, or fallen arches.
Also known as fallen arches, the condition of flat feet is characterized by a lack of appropriate arch in the inner foot. It can be a genetic condition or the result of improper body mechanics. Often the whole of the foot will contact the ground. Because a healthy foot is structurally able to support the weight of the body thanks to the bone structure that comprises the arch, a flat foot often is unable to properly support this weight and will cause extreme pressure in the joints above, such as the ankles, knees and hips.
If you have flat feet, you may also experience pain throughout the lower body and into the lower back. Orthotics can be prescribed to create a system of support for the body and surgery can also offer a more permanent solution. Contact us today to discuss which treatment option may be right for you