When you take your first baby steps, it’s usually done on flat feet. But as you walk more and develop your foot and ankle muscles, bones and tendons, an arch forms to support your foot. Or at least it’s supposed to.
From Web MD: Several tendons in your foot and lower leg work together to form the arches in your foot. When the tendons all pull the proper amount, then your foot forms a moderate, normal arch. When tendons do not pull together properly, there is little or no arch. This is called flat foot or fallen arch.
For some, the arch never develops and they have flat feet for their entire life, yet suffer no symptoms and need no treatment. This is actually a variation on normal foot type. But for others, the arch forms normally and then falls later in life, usually after the age of 40. In these cases, the arch collapses in one or both feet and the entire sole of the foot comes into contact (completely or nearly so) with the ground. These individuals may suffer pain in the heel, arch, ankle, knees, or back, because the fallen arch alters the alignment of their legs.
The reasons for fallen arches may be due to:
- Faulty biomechanics or aging
- Damage to the tendons from overuse (stretched or torn)
- Improper development of muscles and tendons
- Damage or inflammation of the posterior tibial tendon which connects at your calf muscle, runs along your ankle, and attaches to the middle of your arch
- Broken or dislocated bones in the foot
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Problems with the nerves
- Diabetic collapse (charcot foot)
Interestingly, going barefoot is one of the best ways to avoid getting flat feet, as long as you aren’t suffering from any serious foot conditions. In India, a medical study was conducted of children who had grown up wearing shoes compared to those who grew up barefoot. In the barefoot group, the longitudinal arches were generally stronger and higher, with flat feet less common in this group than those who grew up wearing closed-toe shoes.
Symptoms of Flat Feet or Fallen Arches
- Feet are painful or ache, especially in the arch or heel area
- Feet are quick to tire
- Inside bottom of feet may become swollen
- Ankles may be swollen
- Standing on toes is difficult
- Back, knee, ankle, or leg pain
Treatment for Flat Feet
- Depending on the cause of your fallen arches, your podiatrist may recommend one or a number of the following:
- Rest, ice and over the counter anti inflammatory medicine (Advil, Aleve) to reduce pain and swelling
- Stretching exercises / physical therapy
- Custom made orthotics
- Custom made shoes, shoe modifications, or braces
- Steroidal injections to relieve pain and swelling
- Surgery if necessary to repair tendon, or to make changes to the joints or bones