Flat feet, also known as pes planus and fallen arches, is a condition that affects 20-30% of the general population. Having flat feet can be a pain if you aren’t aware of how to take care of them. Knowing your condition and practicing proper foot care can make all the difference in avoiding uncomfortable foot pain.
Flat feet are defined as a condition where the arch of the foot collapses, causing the entire sole of the foot to come into contact with the ground. In some cases, the arch never fully develops, resulting in flat feet. The easiest way to tell if you have flat feet is to dip your feet in the water and step onto a flat, dry surface. If the footprint has a huge gap on the inner part, you have a regular arch that is lifted off the ground. If your entire footprint is visible with no gap, you have flat feet.
Arches normally develop later on in childhood as part of the normal bone, muscle, tendon and ligament growth, so it is common for infants and younger children to have flat feet. As an adult, it is possible to develop flat feet due to congenital conditions at birth, injury, illness, abnormal walking, and obesity. Even pregnant women can develop flat feet due to the changes in their body, such as increased elasticity in the feet. Flat feet that develop later on in adult life remain flat permanently.
Parents of a child with flat feet have the option of using arch support inserts and heel cups in their child’s shoes as a way to promote proper growth and development of the foot’s longitudinal arch. By wearing these arch supports on a daily basis, the foot will be held in the correct neutral position as the child gets older. In a way, this method helps to “train” the foot to arch properly. It is possible for only one foot to be flat.
In adults, having flat feet can cause problems with the feet, knees, and ankles. A few ways to tell if your flat feet are causing you pain include lower leg pain or weakness, swelling along the inside of the ankle, constant foot pain, uneven shoe wear, and a collapse of the shoe toward the inside of the flat foot.
Even people with natural arches can develop flat feet, as arches tend to fall over time. Daily wear and tear and stress on the feet can cause the arch to fall prematurely. If you work in an environment that requires you to be on your feet a lot, or if you are a woman who has been wearing high heels for years, it is very likely you can develop fallen arches. Trauma to the foot or ankle, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes are also factors that can cause arches to fall.
The most popular method for relieving aching, painful, flat feet is through the use of custom-designed arch supports. Your doctor can recommend the appropriate type of arch that will provide your feet with proper support. Ankle braces or walking boots may also be recommended to correct foot problems. Over-the-counter medications can also be used to relieve any pain. Staying off your feet for a long period of time can also help lessen the pain. For extreme cases, surgery may be needed.