Everything You Need to Know About Flat Feet
For some, flat feet may be an everyday normalcy or a cause of concern. When it causes pain and discomfort, it is fundamental to seek treatment. Untreated flat feet in adults and children can lead to serious conditions. Therefore, it is important to discern whether the flat foot is normal or if treatment or therapy is required.
A “normal” flat foot indicates a mild collapse of the arch of the foot. This may be caused by pronation but generally this is not a major issue. Pronation can be treated as easily as painful flat foot.
Flat foot due to a moderate collapse or a tendon tear on the foot’s arch side is a more serious issue. These cases require medical intervention as the collapse may lead to arthritis and continued flattening with time.
Finally, a coalition, or “fixed flat foot” occurs when two foot bones grow together, limiting movement and potentially leading to arthritis.
Causes of Flat Feet in Adults and Children
While genetics is the main cause of flat feet, the condition can also arise due to overuse and stress on the foot, wearing ill-fitted footwear, and trauma or injury. The arch collapses after a tear or injury to the posterior tibial tendon. Likewise, Equinus or a tight Achilles tendon forces the heel slightly off the ground, stressing the foot in order to maintain stability. This can also lead to an arch collapse.
Between 80 to 90 percent of children are born with flat feet and develop a strong arch at six years old. The leg and knee turn inward for those with collapsed arches, causing pain during physical activity and exercise. This can lead to future knee, back, and foot complications. This is why it is important to seek a medical evaluation for flat feet in children as to prevent long-term issues.
Conservative Treatment Options
For those suffering from mild flat foot, custom orthotics or inserts can be used. Those with flexible deformity must use a custom arch support to help support the heel and position it correctly. Many specialists advocate that their patients buy wide-toe shoes in order to reduce pressure and stress on the foot. If these conservative treatments are not effective, a brace that supports the ankle and arch of the foot can be worn. Braces can be effective in patients with a mild tear but who do not need surgery.
If nothing reduces the pain, restorative medicine increases the body’s natural ability to heal damaged ligaments or tendons. For tendon injuries, platelet rich plasma therapy is often very effective. An injection of growth factors is administered to the damaged tendon which encourages healing.
For severe cases of flat foot in children and adults, surgery is recommended. For pediatric flat foot, an implant is positioned between the bones to support the arch. In order to reduce pain and fix the collapse, it may be necessary to elongate the Achilles tendon. In cases of severely collapsed arches, the arch may need to be repositioned in order to once again reach the ground.
For adults, the most common cause of an arch collapse is a tear in the Posterior tibial tendon. The tendons must be repaired and a second tendon added to increase support and strength. In the most severe cases, bone fusion or realignment procedures may be essential. Likewise, a tight Achilles tendon can be lengthened to increase the ankle’s range of motion and to prevent the arch from straining.
Why Consult the Foot and Ankle Specialists of New Mexico – Albuquerque?
Our podiatrists will carefully evaluate your condition before recommending the best treatment option for your unique situation. We always recommend a non-invasive and cost-effective procedure when possible. With the help of our bracing specialists, orthotic manufacturers, and certified physical therapists, we can help you recover from your foot pains as quickly as possible!
Call us at (505) 219-2940 to schedule a consultation.