Fallen arches, or flatfoot, is a condition in which the arch on the inside of the foot is flat and the entire sole of the foot rests on the ground. It affects about 40% of the general population. Although flat feet in themselves are not usually problematic, they can create problems in the feet, hips, ankles and knees. Pain may be experienced in the lower back if there are alignment problems and if the individual is engaged in a lot of heavy, high impact activities that put stress on the bones and muscles in the lower legs. The arches of most individuals are fully developed by the age of 12 to 13. While some people are born with flat arches, for others the arches fall over time. The tibial tendon, which runs along the inside of the ankle from above the ankle to the arch, can weaken with age and with heavy activity. The posterior tendon, main support structure for the arch, can become inflamed (tendonitis) or even tear if overloaded. For women, wearing high heels can affect the Achilles tendon and alter the structure and function of the ankle. The posterior tibial tendon may compensate for this stress and break down, causing the arches to fall. Obesity is another contributing factor, as well as a serious injury to the ankle or foot, arthritis and bad circulation such as occurs with diabetes.
Over-pronation is a common biomechanical problem that occurs when the arches collapse while walking or standing. This condition hampers our natural walking pattern, causing an imbalance, and leading to wear and tear in other parts of the body with every step we take. Whether you suffer from over-pronation like most of the population, or you have a true flat foot, in both cases your poor walking pattern may contribute to a range of different complaints. As we age, poor aligment of the feet causes very common conditions such as heel pain or knee pain. Over-pronation has different causes. Obesity, pregnancy, age or repetitive pounding on a hard surface can weaken the arch, leading to over-pronation. Over-pronation is also very common with athletes, especially runners, who most of them nowadays use orthotics inside their shoes.
Most people do not exhibit any symptoms of flat feet, but if the condition is due to an underlying problem, symptoms can include foot pain, mainly in the arch or heel areas, difficulty standing on tiptoes, swelling that occurs on the inside of the ankle, pain in the calf, knee, hip, or lower leg area, both feet lie flat on the ground with no gap, Shoes may not fit properly, heel may tilt away from the midline of the body more than usual, absence of foot arch when standing. If you are experiencing these symptoms and have flat feet, you should consider seeing your doctor or a podiatrist immediately for an examination.
Many medical professionals can diagnose a flat foot by examining the patient standing or just looking at them. On going up onto tip toe the deformity will correct when this is a flexible flat foot in a child with lax joints. Such correction is not seen in the adult with a rigid flat foot. An easy and traditional home diagnosis is the "wet footprint" test, performed by wetting the feet in water and then standing on a smooth, level surface such as smooth concrete or thin cardboard or heavy paper. Usually, the more the sole of the foot that makes contact (leaves a footprint), the flatter the foot. In more extreme cases, known as a kinked flatfoot, the entire inner edge of the footprint may actually bulge outward, where in a normal to high arch this part of the sole of the foot does not make contact with the ground at all.
arch support plantar fasciitis
Non Surgical Treatment
If you have flat feet, you may also experience pain throughout the lower body and into the lower back. Orthotics (custom-made rigid foot supports) can be prescribed when over-the-counter supports do not provide releif and surgery can also offer a more permanent solution in severe cases. The board-certified doctors in our practice would be able to select the most appropriate course of action in each case.
Rarely does the physician use surgery to correct a foot that is congenitally flat, which typically does not cause pain. If the patient has a fallen arch that is painful, though, the foot and ankle physicians at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush may perform surgery to reconstruct the tendon and "lift up" the fallen arch. This requires a combination of tendon re-routing procedures, ligament repairs, and bone cutting or fusion procedures.
Patients may go home the day of surgery or they may require an overnight hospital stay. The leg will be placed in a splint or cast and should be kept elevated for the first two weeks. At that point, sutures are removed. A new cast or a removable boot is then placed. It is important that patients do not put any weight on the corrected foot for six to eight weeks following the operation. Patients may begin bearing weight at eight weeks and usually progress to full weightbearing by 10 to 12 weeks. For some patients, weightbearing requires additional time. After 12 weeks, patients commonly can transition to wearing a shoe. Inserts and ankle braces are often used. Physical therapy may be recommended. There are complications that relate to surgery in general. These include the risks associated with anesthesia, infection, damage to nerves and blood vessels, and bleeding or blood clots. Complications following flatfoot surgery may include wound breakdown or nonunion (incomplete healing of the bones). These complications often can be prevented with proper wound care and rehabilitation. Occasionally, patients may notice some discomfort due to prominent hardware. Removal of hardware can be done at a later time if this is an issue. The overall complication rates for flatfoot surgery are low.