Flat Feet Are More Than Just a Foot Problem

The lack of an arch, known as having flat feet, is a relatively common problem. Approximately one out of every five people has flat feet. Often, people with flat feet don’t have any problems, but sometimes, issues with your ankles, knees, hips, or lower back can develop. 

Types of flat feet

There’s more than one way to have a flat foot. Everyone starts out with flat feet, but around the age of three years, most people begin to develop an arch. You may never develop an arch, or your arch may flatten with time. 

Rigid flat feet never have an arch. Even when there’s no weight on your foot, it remains flat. Flexible flat feet appear to have a normal arch, until you put weight on them -- then they flatten out. 

If you have flexible flat feet, the ligaments in your foot are lax. The condition appears to be hereditary. 

Rigid flat foot is a result of abnormal development and could be genetic or the result of some other health condition. For example, people with cerebral palsy may have rigid flat feet. 

As an adult, you may develop flat feet for a number of reasons: following an injury, as a result of being overweight or sedentary -- or from over-activity, or having a job that requires a great deal of weight-bearing activity. 

The dangers of overpronation

Having flat feet can cause you to overpronate when you walk. That means that your leg rotates inward with each step. 

Have you ever seen a pair of shoes that were much more worn on the inside of the foot than the outside? The person who wore them was probably had an overpronation problem. 

It’s also possible to underpronate. In that case your leg rotates to the outside with each step. However, if you have flat feet you’re more likely to overpronate. 

The problem with overpronation is that it puts extra stress on your knees, which over time, can lead to problems like plantar fasciitis, heel spurs, tendonitis, and bunions, among others. 

Overpronation can also cause your hips to become misaligned, which causes stress on your hip joints and strains the muscles of your leg. 

Extra wear-and-tear

When your arch doesn’t function properly, your ankles, knees, and hips endure extra wear-and-tear. Your arches serve as shock absorbers with each step you take, and if they aren’t there, your other joints wear more as you walk and move. 

Osteoarthritis is called a “wear-and-tear disease” and, as you might expect, people with flat feet are at a greater risk of developing it. There’s no cure for osteoarthritis, and it’s degenerative, meaning it worsens over time. 

If you have osteoarthritis, the cartilage in your affected joints begins to break down and deteriorate, which leaves the bones to rub against each other painfully. In people with flat feet, the affected joints are most often the knees and hips, though other joints, such as those in your ankles and feet, are vulnerable as well. 

Treatments

If you have flat feet, you don’t automatically require treatment. However, if you’re experiencing pain in your feet, ankles, knees, or hips, you should book an appointment at Alliance Foot & Ankle Specialists for an evaluation. We are happy to answer questions about the best shoe choice for you. Often flat feet can be treated with an orthotic device, special exercises, or simply choosing the best shoes. During an appointment, we will discuss which option will help benefit your foot health. 

If you suspect you may have flat feet and would like to schedule an appointment for an individual evaluation, give us a call at the location most convenient for you. We’ll be happy to answer your questions and suggest an appropriate treatment plan.

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