A flatfoot is a common condition of the foot’s structure. Before a baby begins walking, his feet are flat and smooth on the bottom. Over time the child stands on his toes and exercises his foot through walking and jumping motions.
The arch continues to develop throughout childhood, and by adulthood most people have developed normal arches. If a child’s foot does not develop normally by 8 years of age, it may be time to seek medical attention.
Custom arch supports (Orthotics) for kids can help support the joints so that they can finish developing. Painless flat feet are sometimes generic and are not a problem. When flatfoot occures in adulthood, it is commonly referred to as "fallen arches."
CAUSES In adults, painful progressive flatfoot is often an acquired disorder caused when the posterior tendons become inflamed, stretched or torn. Flatfoot can occur for any number of reasons and can be associated with non-supportive shoes, being overweight or poor bone structure. Left untreated, it may lead to severe disability and chronic pain. Physical therapy, supportive taping, bracing, and orthotics are common treatments for painful progressive flatfoot. Surgical intervention may be required to support the tendons and restore normal function. DIAGNOSIS Dr. Smith will want to see how your ankles and feet function as you stand and walk. X-rays are usually taken to determine the severity of the disorder. SYMPTOMS Patients may feel a wide variety of pain, since flatfoot can change the entire balance of the leg. There may be pain in the heel, ankle, arch or along the outside of the foot. It is not uncommon for athletes and active people to have pain along the shin bone (shin splints). There can be an overall achiness or tired sensation in the feet, legs, lower back, hip and knees.
TREATMENT If the problem has not persisted to a chronic stage, there are non-surgical options that can be helpful in resolving the problem:
• Activity modifications. Cut down on activities that bring you pain and avoid prolonged walking and standing to give your arches a rest. • Weight loss. If you are overweight, try to lose weight. Putting too much weight on your arches may aggravate your symptoms. • Orthotic devices. Your foot and ankle surgeon can provide you with custom orthotic devices for your shoes to give more support to the arches. • Immobilization. In some cases, it may be necessary to use a walking cast or to completely avoid weight bearing. • Medications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, help reduce pain and inflammation. • Physical therapy. Ultrasound therapy or other physical therapy modalities may be used to provide temporary relief. • Shoe modifications. Wearing shoes that support the arches is important for anyone who has flatfoot.
A variety of surgical techniques are available to correct flatfoot. Dr. Smith will take into consideration the extent of your deformity based on the x-ray findings, your age, your activity level, and other factors. The length of the recovery period will vary, depending on the procedure or procedures performed.