When you walk in the sand, you usually leave a trail of footrints behind you. These footprints actually give a great deal of information about how your foot functions and the structure of your foot. If your footprint looks like a pancake, and you can’t tell the difference between the heel, arch, and ball of the feet—the entire print is smooth and level—you likely have flat feet. Approximately 20 to 30 percent of the population have flat feet. What to do about flat feet

Understanding Flat Feet

Most people are born with flat feet but develop arches around the age of two or three when their tendons mature and they start walking upright. But some people never develop arches, and others lose their arches at some point later in their life.

Many people with flat feet will go their entire lives without much more than noticing their condition. They will never require medical assistance or intervention to accommodate the shape and structure of their feet. However, others with flat feet may notice the following symptoms:

  • Discomfort
  • Pain, especially in the heel or arch area of the foot
  • Pain that becomes worse with activity
  • Stiff or weak feet
  • Feet that become tired or achy with use or prolonged standing
  • Balance issues
  • Difficulty running or walking
  • Difficulty standing on your tiptoes
  • Swelling and inflammation around your inner ankle
  • Leg pain and knee issues

Causes and Risk Factors of Flat Feet and Fallen Arches

Many people are flat-footed because of genetics and have the condition from birth. But others develop flat feet or suffer from fallen arches later in their lives. Reasons or risk factors that might cause you to develop flat feet include:

  • Acute injury to the foot or ankle
  • Weak arches
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Muscle or nervous system diseases
  • Fused bones in the foot
  • Aging
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes

Our Texas Podiatrists Treat Two Major Types of Flat Feet

There are two major categories of flat feet: rigid flat feet and flexible flat feet.

People with flexible flat feet display arches when they are sitting down or when on their tiptoes, but their arches disappear when they are standing and their feet are bearing weight. Flexible flat feet are often caused by loose or lax ligaments and tendons in the foot. This type of flat feet is less likely to cause foot and leg pain.

People with rigid flat feet never have an arch in their foot in any position and may have trouble standing on their tiptoes. This type of flat foot is more likely to cause complications and pain in the patient.

Flat Feet Diagnosed: How Our Texas Podiatrists Treat This Condition

The treatment of flat feet depends on the cause of the condition as well as each individual patient. At Alliance Foot & Ankle Specialists, we begin with the least costly and invasive solutions before advancing to other options for your arch pain.

At home, people with flat feet may try lifestyle changes, which can include:

  • Rest
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers
  • Weight loss
  • Dietary changes

With our help and direction, other non-invasive treatments include:

Stretching and physical therapy are especially helpful in easing your pain. Heel cord stretches are a great way to stretch your Achilles tendon and help loosen up calf muscles that are often strained due to flat feet. Placing a golf ball under your foot and rolling it back and forth while seated is another great stretch, especially for those living with plantar fasciitis.

Surgery for Flat Feet or Fallen Arches

Sometimes, despite aggressive conservative therapy, pain from fallen arches just doesn’t improve. In these cases, after a patient has reached skeletal maturity, a variety of arch and positional reconstructive procedures can be used to fix the deformity once and for all. These procedures range from the minimally invasive, such as Arthroeireisis implants, which allows weight-bearing almost immediately after implantation, to the invasive, such as Evans wedge osteotomy, Calcaneal slide, or Opening Cotton wedge osteotomy, all of which require several weeks of immobilization to heal.

What to Expect at Your Appointment

If you are experiencing any pain or discomfort from your flat feet or fallen arches, contact Dr. Nichols or Dr. Harvey today for a consultation. At the appointment, our podiatrist will ask you questions about your foot health and overall health, including:

  • What issues are you experiencing with your feet, and when did they begin?
  • Do you have any other medical problems or take medications?
  • Do you have a family history of flat feet?
  • How would you describe your foot pain?
  • Does anything make your pain better or worse?

Our podiatrist may also give you a foot exam along with diagnostic testing, which could include the following:

  • X-rays
  • CT scan
  • MRI
  • Ultrasound

After your diagnosis, you and your doctor will work together to develop a treatment plan that makes sense for you and your individual medical needs.

Frequently Asked Questions About Flat Feet

There are many misconceptions and myths about flat feet and fallen arches. Talking to a podiatrist about your flat feet is the best way to get all of your questions answered. Here is some general information about flat feet and flat-footedness.

Should I Walk Barefoot if I Have Flat Feet?

It’s possible that walking barefoot can help strengthen your foot and arch muscles, but you need to discuss this with your podiatrist. If your doctor advises that you walk barefoot, take off your shoes and walk on the carpet in your home, on a beach, or in the grass. When you wear shoes all day, the muscles at the bottom of the feet don’t work as hard as they do when you’re barefoot. This can lead to instability in the arches and muscles.

What Kind of Shoes Should I Wear if I Have Flat Feet?

If you have flat feet, there are important features to look for when buying shoes. These features include:

  • Shoes that have arch support. Because you have fallen arches or no arch at all, it’s important to wear shoes designed to support and cushion what arch you do have. The right arch support with help stabilize the foot and prevent your flat feet from worsening
  • Shoes that have a wide toe box. This will help prevent your toes from being crammed together.
  • Shoes with a well-defined heel cup. This will keep your foot securely in place while allowing for natural foot movements.
  • Shoes with quality padding. Pads elevate the ball of the foot and are very helpful for people with flat feet because they relieve pressure on the joints of the foot while better distributing their weight.

What Happens if I Don’t Treat My Flat Feet?

While some people don’t need treatment for flat feet, this condition can cause other certain health problems, including;

  • Bone spurs
  • Bunions
  • Corns and calluses
  • Knee, hip, and lower back pain
  • Shin splints
  • Arthritis