A fallen arch or flatfoot is known medically as pes planus. The foot loses the gently curving arch on the inner side of the sole, just in front of the heel. If this arch is flattened only when standing and returns when the foot is lifted off the ground, the condition is called flexible pes planus or flexible flatfoot. If the arch disappears in both foot positions, standing and elevated, the condition is called rigid pes planus or rigid flatfoot.
Also known as pes planus, this is when the arch of the foot collapses completely dropping the whole sole of the foot down to the ground. Flat feet are a common cause of foot arch pain. Babies are born with flat feet and as they grow, the foot arches should gradually form, but in approximately 30% of the population, they never do. They can also develop later in life, due to illness, pregnancy, injury, excessive stress on the feet or as part of the aging process. Many people who have flat feet don?t complain of any accompanying symptoms, but some develop foot arch pain, or problems further up the leg such as knee pain or back pain. They may find their feet tire quickly when they are standing or walking, and that it is difficult to rise up onto their tiptoes. Someone who is experiencing pain on the bottom of the foot or elsewhere due to their flat feet can benefit from exercises and orthotics (specially designed insoles to correct the foot position) as well as walking barefoot rather than in shoes. A quick test to see if you have flat feet is to put your foot in a tray of water and then place it on a smooth level surface e.g. thick paper. Have a look at your footprint, the more of the sole of the foot that you can see, the flatter your foot.
Flat feet can exhibit a variety of symptoms, from mild to severe. The extent of the flat foto does not always correlate with the extent of symptoms. Patients may complain of arch pain and heel pain. Commonly there is pain on the outside of the foot, where the foot meets the ankle as the collapse foot abuts against the ankle. Muscle cramps within the foot, and onto the leg (shin splints) may occur. In general, patients have pain with activity, such as walking or running. The pain may be deep and focal to a generalized widespread achy feeling. Irritation from shoe gear can cause redness and swelling. Common reasons patients seek treatment are pain, interference with walking or activities, difficulty fitting shoes, swelling, and notice a change in appearance of the foot and/or unsightly appearance.
The diagnosis of high arch (cavus) foot deformity or Charcot Marie Tooth disease can be made by an orthopedic surgeon in the office. Evaluation includes a thorough history and physical examination as well as imaging studies such as X-rays. The orthopedic surgeon will look at the overall shape, flexibility, and strength of a patient?s foot and ankle to help determine the best treatment. Nerve tests may occasionally need to be performed to help confirm the diagnosis.
Non Surgical Treatment
High arches that are flexible do not require any treatment. In cases where there is pain, shoe modifications such as an arch insert or support insole can help to relieve pain during walking. Custom orthotic devices can be given that fit into the shoe and provide stability and cushioning effect. Your doctor may recommend a brace to help keep the foot and ankle stable. In severe cases, surgery is performed to flatten the foot. Any coexisting nerve disorders are also treated.
As with most surgeries, patients and physicians should consider the surgery only after other, less invasive treatments have proven unproductive. Indications for surgery include Pain. Inability to function. Failure to improve after a six-month course of specific, directed physical therapy. Failure to improve after using arch supports, orthotics, or ankle and foot bracing. Once patients are at that point, the good news is that the procedure has considerably better outcomes than more traditional flat foot surgery. In the past, surgeons would realign and fuse the three hind joints, which would cause patients to lose motion, leaving them with a significantly stiff hind foot, With these newer procedures, if the foot is still flexible, surgeons can realign it and usually restore a close-to-normal or functional range of motion in the joints.
Maintain a healthy weight, Use insoles to support your arches, Limit how often you wear high heels, Use proper shoes, especially when exercising to evenly distribute weight through your foot.
Flexibility is important in preventing injuries. With a simple stretching exercise, you can rehabilitate the muscles of your foot to relieve arch pain and prevent future injuries. This simple exercise by Tammy White and Phyllis Clapis for Relay Health is a good way to strengthen your foot muscles and stretch your plantar fascia. Sit in a chair and cross one foot over your other knee. Grab the base of your toes and pull them back toward your leg until you feel a comfortable stretch. Hold 15 seconds and repeat three times. When you can stand comfortably on your injured foot, you can begin standing to stretch the plantar fascia at the bottom of your foot.