Most flat feet are not painful, particularly those flat feet seen in children. In the adult acquired flatfoot, pain occurs because soft tissues (tendons and ligaments) have been torn. The deformity progresses or worsens because once the vital ligaments and posterior tibial tendon are lost, nothing can take their place to hold up the arch of the foot. The painful, progressive adult acquired flatfoot affects women four times as frequently as men. It occurs in middle to older age people with a mean age of 60 years. Most people who develop the condition already have flat feet. A change occurs in one foot where the arch begins to flatten more than before, with pain and swelling developing on the inside of the ankle. Why this event occurs in some people (female more than male) and only in one foot remains poorly understood. Contributing factors increasing the risk of adult acquired flatfoot are diabetes, hypertension, and obesity.
Flat feet are a common condition. The condition is normal in infants and toddlers. Flat feet occur because the tissues holding the joints in the foot together (called tendons) are loose. The tissues tighten and form an arch as children grow older. This will take place by the time the child is 2 or 3 years old. Most people have normal arches by the time they are adults. However, the arch may never form in some people. Aging, injuries, or illness may harm the tendons and cause flat feet to develop in a person who has already formed arches. This type of flat foot may occur only on one side. Rarely, painful flat feet in children may be caused by a condition in which two or more of the bones in the foot grow or fuse together. This condition is called tarsal coalition.
The primary symptom is pain or aching in the arch area. This can be accompanied by inflammation and tenderness. If the pain is caused by the plantar fascia, it is likely to be considerably more severe in the mornings due to the muscles being unused. If you notice that the twinges of pain you have are most commonly associated with or immediately after exercise, you might want to visit a good athletic shoe store to make sure you are wearing the right kind of shoe. Another cause of arch pain is plantar fasciitis. The plantar fascia is a tough tissue structure that holds the bottom part of the arch in place. The fascia often becomes inflamed and sore, usually as a result of repetitive motion (for example, very common in those who stand on their feet for work). The pain is often noticeable first thing in the morning and worse with activity.
The doctor will examine your feet for foot flexibility and range of motion and feel for any tenderness or bony abnormalities. Depending on the results of this physical examination, foot X-rays may be recommended. X-rays are always performed in a young child with rigid flatfeet and in an adult with acquired flatfeet due to trauma.
Non Surgical Treatment
Rest is the most important thing you can do. Stay off your feet, or use a cane. Gently apply ice to the arch for at least 30 minutes, and repeat every 3 or 4 hours. Apply mild compression to the foot. Use a Fabriform PSC Foot and Ankle Strap to help support the arch, reduce swelling, and relieve pain and fatigue. This strap is easy to apply and adjust for a custom fit. Low profile allows it to fit in any shoe. Allows you to apply just the right amount of arch support/compression for your foot. Before stepping down after sleeping or resting, stretch the arch of your foot by pulling up on the ball of the foot and toes, as far as you comfortably can; hold the foot in this position for ten seconds. Repeat at least ten times. Consideration should also be given to the use of night splints. These are very effective for stretching the plantar fascia to relieve first weight bearing pain.
In adults, the most common cause of collapse is due to the posterior tibial tendon tear. In such cases, the tendon must be repaired and a second tendon may be added to the posterior tibial tendon for strength and added support. If the foot is found to be very flat, bone realignment procedures or possible bone fusion procedures may be used to realign the foot. If the calf or Achilles tendon are found to be tight, they may be lengthened to allow better motion at the ankle and less arch strain. The forefoot may also be in a poor position and stabilization of the arch may be necessary to increase forefoot contact to the ground.
Plantar Fasciitis stretches should always be gentle and pain free, if discomfort occurs with or after stretching decrease the intensity and duration of stretches. Stretches can usually be gradually progressed in intensity and duration over time according to individual tolerance. Plantar Fasciitis Stretch 1. Stretch for the right calf muscle (gastrocnemius) and the arch of the right foot (plantar fascia and muscles under the arches). Take your right heel close to the wall and ball of the foot upright against the wall. Move your hips forwards to the wall. Try to keep your right leg straight. Push down through your right heel to increase the stretch. Maintain for 30 seconds, repeat 2-3 times. Plantar Fasciitis Stretch 2. Stretch for the outside belly of the right calf muscle and the arch of the right foot. Take your right heel close to the wall. Turn the ball of your right foot outwards to 2 o?clock position upright against the wall. Move your hips forwards to the wall. Turn your trunk in the opposite direction (i.e. to the left). Try to keep your right leg straight. Push down through your right heel to increase the stretch. Maintain for 30 seconds, repeat 2-3 times. Plantar Fasciitis Stretch 3. Stretch for the inside belly of the right calf muscle and the arch of the right foot. Take your right heel close to the wall. Turn the ball of your right foot inwards to 10 o?clock position upright against the wall. Move your hips forwards to the wall. Turn your trunk in the opposite direction (i.e. to the right). Try to keep your right leg straight. Push down through your right heel to increase the stretch. Maintain for 30 seconds, repeat 2-3 times. Plantar Fasciitis Stretch 4. Stretch for the right achilles tendon and the arch of the right foot. Take your right heel close to the wall and ball of the foot upright against the wall (as for stretch 1). Move your hips forwards to the wall. Bend your right knee forwards into the wall keeping the ball of your foot upright against the wall. Push down through your right heel to increase the stretch. Maintain for 30 seconds, repeat 2-3 times.