Flat Feet: What is it, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment
People with flat feet have very low arches or no foot arches at all. This means that one or both feet can be completely flat on the ground.
People with flat feet have very low arches or no foot arches at all. This means that one or both feet can be completely flat on the ground. Flat feet is a condition that can affect the body’s posture when a person is standing, walking or running. It is a condition that can be seen in children and may continue in adulthood.
What are Flat Feet?
The human foot is a structure containing 33 joints that hold 26 different bones together. The flexibility created by the arches of the foot acts as a spring for the foot to press on the sole and helps distribute the body weight between the feet and legs. However, some people do not have the flexibility that serves as this spring. Flat feet is the term used when the arch of the foot is lower than normal. The foot is generally arch-shaped and the middle part of the inner surface of the foot is above the ground. People usually realize that they have flat feet in childhood, when this height is not visible. However, the condition can also develop in adulthood. If flat feet cause pain or other problems, treatments may be necessary.
What are the symptoms of flat feet?
Many people with flat feet may not experience any symptoms, including pain, but some types of flat feet cause serious pain. Flat feet do not always cause symptoms. Sometimes they cause pain in other parts of the body, such as the heel and legs. This is because flat feet change the way the feet and legs are aligned. They also change the way they work together on the go. Problems that develop due to flat feet are:
- Muscle pain in the foot or leg
- Pain in the arch, ankle, heel, or outside of the foot
- Pain or change in gait when walking
- slipping toe
- Frequent trips or falls in children
What Causes Flat Feet?
As children get older, arches form in their feet. While the arches of the foot are forming, they may be very high or low. Apart from low arches, there are also arches that do not form at all. Low or non-existent arch causes flat feet. Some people may develop flat feet as they get older. Flat feet may result from the arches of the feet not developing properly during childhood. Children’s feet develop at different rates. Most children develop a more visible arch by about age 10. Flat feet can also develop with age, as wear and tear on the feet causes the arch to fall off. Some children often experience the problem of flexible flat feet. In flexible flat feet, the arch of the foot can be seen when the child is sitting or standing on his toes, but when the child stands up, this arch becomes invisible and a straight foot is seen. Most children can recover from flexible flat feet without experiencing serious symptoms. People who do not have flat feet can also develop the condition over the years due to wear and tear.
What are the Types of Flat Feet?
Flat feet can be found in different types in people. Especially the age at which flat feet occur and the factors that cause them are decisive in these types. Flat foot types are as follows:
- Flexible Flat Feet: Flexible flat feet are a common flat foot problem. This condition begins in childhood and continues into adulthood. With flexible flat feet, the child usually has no symptoms other than pain and stiffness and may not need treatment. The ligaments that support the arch of the foot are also loose in children with congenital disorders such as Down syndrome and Marfan syndrome. Therefore, flexible flat feet may develop in children with congenital defects.
- Hard Flat Feet: There is no arch in hard flat feet. It is a tear of the posterior tibial tendon, whose main purpose is to provide stability and support for the arch while walking. If the posterior tibial tendon becomes torn, stretched, or inflamed due to injury or overuse, a collapsed arch may develop, eventually resulting in flat feet. This condition manifests itself with pain. This pain increases with activity, making simple movements difficult and may prevent high-impact activities. Hard flat feet are a problem that is more common in pregnant women or people over the age of 40. If tendon damage is detected at the earliest stage, nonsurgical treatments such as rest, ice therapy, anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapy can help relieve symptoms.
How to Diagnose Flat Feet?
While flat feet can usually be noticed when the person feels discomfort or sees that their foot is flat, the underlying cause may need to be investigated by the doctor. Examinations for this diagnosis may include a physical examination as well as imaging tests to evaluate the structure of the foot. For people experiencing a lot of foot pain, the healthcare provider may order imaging tests to help pinpoint the underlying cause. Among the imaging tests used, x-rays and computed tomography (CT) scans are ideal for diagnosing arthritis and evaluating irregularities in the angle and alignment of the bones of the foot. Ultrasound can be used to produce detailed images of soft tissue damage, such as a ruptured tendon. At the same time, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can provide detailed images of bone and soft tissue damage, ideal for people with rheumatoid arthritis, tendonitis, or an Achilles heel injury. A doctor can usually diagnose flat feet by looking at the feet while the person is standing. Apart from this, the shoe examination test can reveal the faulty foot structure. When flat feet occur, more wear occurs on the inside of the sole, especially in the heel area. The upper part of the shoe also tends to bend over the sole. The toe test is used to see whether flat feet are flexible or rigid.
How is Flat Feet Treated?
Many people who experience flat feet do not have any significant problems, so they may not need treatment. But the first step to treating treatable flat feet in children is control. Since children may not notice flat feet, parents and caregivers should monitor children for proper arch development at an early age. If any abnormalities are noticed, children should be examined by a doctor. Pediatricians can perform both a clinical examination and an X-ray to determine the type and cause of most flatfoot deformities.
When adults experience foot pain, stiffness or other problems, the doctor may recommend non-surgical treatments. Prescribing non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, rest and ice therapy are among the treatments prescribed by the doctor to relieve foot pain. Physical therapies can also be applied to stretch and strengthen tendons and muscles and improve flexibility and mobility. Sometimes, specially designed arch supports that are shaped to the contours of the feet are recommended. Devices such as foot orthoses, medical foot or leg supports and custom-made shoes are the preferred equipment to prevent untreatable flat feet from affecting the comfort of life. Flat feet may contribute to overuse injuries in some runners. When patients still have pain that limits their activities after trying nonsurgical treatments, surgery may be an option. Surgery can repair bone and tendon problems that cause pain. If flat feet cause slight pain to the person, the following are the things that can be done:
- To relax
- Avoiding activities that aggravate the condition
- Doing low-impact activities such as walking, cycling or swimming instead of activities such as jumping and running
- Lose weight
- Follow the recommendations given by the doctor