Ardis Deaguiar

Caring for your feet.

What Can You Do About Fallen Arches?

Overview

Acquired Flat Foot

Fallen arches, also know as having flat feet, or pes planus, refers to the collapsing of the foot?s arch so that it is no longer curved properly or adequately supportive. The condition can cause foot pain, fatigue and affect gait, which can create strain on the knees, ankles legs and hips. Fallen arches can occur naturally from birth, or can be attributed to the rolling in of the foot and ankle while running (overpronation).

Causes

Some people develop fallen arches because they tend to pronate, or roll inwards on the ankles, says the Instep Foot Clinic. Other people may simply have under-developed muscles in their arches. Your arches help your feet bear weight and are supported in this job by muscles and tendons in your feet and ankles. So, while fallen arches aren?t usually serious, they can cause pain in your feet, ankles, knees and/or hips due to your reduced weight-bearing ability. In these cases, treatment may be required. Orthotics that sit in your shoes and support your arches are a common solution, as are exercises to strengthen and stretch your feet and leg muscles.

Symptoms

Flat feet don't usually cause problems, but they can put a strain on your muscles and ligaments (ligaments link two bones together at a joint). This may cause pain in your legs when you walk. If you have flat feet, you may experience pain in any of the following areas, the inside of your ankle, the arch of your foot, the outer side of your foot, the calf, the knee, hip or back. Some people with flat feet find that their weight is distributed unevenly, particularly if their foot rolls inwards too much (overpronates). If your foot overpronates, your shoes are likely to wear out quickly. Overpronation can also damage your ankle joint and Achilles tendon (the large tendon at the back of your ankle).

Diagnosis

Most children and adults with flatfeet do not need to see a physician for diagnosis or treatment. However, it is a good idea to see a doctor if the feet tire easily or are painful after standing, it is difficult to move the foot around or stand on the toes, the foot aches, especially in the heel or arch, and there is swelling on the inner side of the foot, the pain interferes with activity or the person has been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Most flatfeet are diagnosed during physical examination. During the exam, the foot may be wetted and the patient asked to stand on a piece of paper. An outline of the entire foot will indicate a flattened arch. Also, when looking at the feet from behind, the ankle and heel may appear to lean inward (pronation). The patient may be asked to walk so the doctor can see how much the arch flattens during walking. The doctor may also examine the patient's shoes for signs of uneven wear, ask questions about a family history of flatfeet, and inquire about known neurological or muscular diseases. Imaging tests may be used to help in the diagnosis. If there is pain or the arch does not appear when the foot is flexed, x-rays are taken to determine the cause. If tarsal coalition is suspected, computed tomography (CT scan) may be performed, and if an injury to the tendons is suspected, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI scan) may be performed.

fallen arches support

Non Surgical Treatment

Custom orthotics are specially designed insoles, which are made for your by prescription. This is done by taking a plaster cast of the foot in its neutral position and is then sent to a laboratory, with your prescription to be made to your exact specifications. The insole then correctly aligns your foot and as a result your body. This will relieve abnormal strain of tissues and structures which can cause pain. For less severe mal-alignments or for sports use a wide variety of temporary insoles.

Surgical Treatment

Acquired Flat Foot

Since there are many different causes of flatfoot, the types of flatfoot reconstruction surgery are best categorized by the conditions. Posterior tibial tendon dysfunction. In this condition, the tendon connecting the calf muscle to the inner foot is torn or inflamed. Once the tendon is damaged it no longer can serve its main function of supporting the arch of the foot. Flatfoot is the main result of this type of condition and can be treated by the following flatfoot reconstruction surgeries. Lengthening of the Achilles tendon. Otherwise known as gastrocnemius recession, this procedure is used to lengthen the calf muscles in the leg. This surgery treats flatfoot and prevents it from returning in the future. This procedure is often combined with other surgeries to correct posterior tibial tendon dysfunction. Cleaning the tendon. Also known as tenosynovectomy, this procedure is used in the earlier and less severe stages of posterior tibial tendon dysfunction. It is performed before the arch collapses and while the tendon is only mildly affected. The inflamed tissue is cleaned away and removed from the remaining healthy tendon. Tendon transfer. This procedure is done to correct flatfoot and reform the lost arch in the foot. During the procedure, the diseased tendon is removed and replaced by tendon from another area of the foot. If the tendon is only partially damaged, the inflamed part is cleaned and removed then attached to a new tendon. Cutting and shifting bones. Also called an osteotomy, this procedure consists of cutting and reconstructing bones in the foot to reconstruct the arch. The heel bone and the midfoot are most likely reshaped to achieve this desired result. A bone graft may be used to fuse the bones or to lengthen the outside of the foot. Temporary instrumentation such as screws and plates can also be used to hold the bones together while they heal.

Prevention

Orthotic inserts, either prescribed or bought over the counter, can help keep the arches fixed into position, but always wear them as although they support, they don?t strengthen, which is why some experts reccomend avoiding them. Gait analysis at a run specialist can help to diagnose overpronation and flat feet. Most brands produce shoes that will give support and help to limit the negative effects of a poor gait on the rest of the body. Barefoot exercises, such as standing on a towel and making fists with the toes, can help to strengthen the arches. Start easy and build up the reps to avoid cramping. Short barefoot running sessions can help take pressure off the arches by using the natural elasticity of the foot?s tendons to take impact and build strength to help prevent flat feet. These should be done on grass for only a few minutes at a time.
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