The weight of the entire body rests on the ground through the feet. As the feet have to bear the body’s weight, it has to be taken proper care of throughout one’s life. People generally have an arch in the middle of the foot. But there are a few who do not have an arch and they are said to have flat feet or fallen arches which is also termed as “pes plannus”. The arch in the foot serves as an elastic spring between the fore and the hind foot so that the full force of the weight of the body is spread evenly throughout the foot and does not impact the bones of the thigh and leg. To check if a person has a flat foot or not, the imprint of wet feet can be made on a flat surface. If the entire foot is imprinted on the surface, it signifies that the person has a flat foot. If the imprint does not include the arch, it is a normal foot. This is a simple self-assessment test that can be done easily anywhere.
Arched and Flat Feet
Feet have an arch in the middle which helps to support the body better. But some have flat feet which mean they have “fallen arches”. A person with flat feet has a very low arch or no arch and the entire foot presses on the ground completely. As a child, the arch in the foot is not visible because of the soft tissue and baby fat in that part of the feet. But as the child grows, the arch appears visibly. But for some, these arches do not appear at all. These may also be due to a genetic trait inherited from parents. Flat foot or arched foot, they do not create a problem as the body adjusts to the structure of the body. But there are instances, when flat foot creates pain in the foot. The foot has to support the weight of the body throughout the life of a person. When the ligaments and tendons weaken due to over-stress or age, the arch bears the brunt of this weakening and it collapses. Flat feet cause pain in several parts of the body and the lower part of the body. It causes pain or discomfort in the feet and in the ankles; it causes discomfort while standing or walking for a lengthy duration; it strains the hip and lower back; it may also turn the foot outward at the ankle.
Causes of Flat Feet
Flat feet may be a genetic disorder. Some have flat feet when standing but normal feet when seated, while most have flat feet. Some get the condition by birth, while it is acquired over the ages. Foot injury due to sudden impact of the foot on hard objects may also cause flat feet. As one grows older, rheumatoid arthritis may cause flat feet, while tendons may get damaged which may cause flat feet. Fusing of the bones of the foot, even as a baby may cause flat feet right from birth. Flat feet may occur any time during one’s life. But till it creates pain in the body, there is nothing to worry about in such flat feet. Flat feet should be treated when this condition causes pain to the ankles and the lower leg or when one foot or both feet become fat or rigid or heavy. When such conditions occur, they should be looked into. An ordinary X-ray or scan may show the cause of the pain due to flat feet.
The flat structure of the foot without the arch may cause pain in the feet, the ankles, the lower knees, lower back or hips. It may also make the feet to roll inwards, which makes the shoes to wear out fast, thereby causing injuries to the lower part of the body. It may also cause pain to the muscles and bones connected with the feet. These are common occurrences and do not require any serious treatment. Flat foot occurs due to weakness in foot. However, they also cause consistent pain to the legs and foot and when given the right treatment, the pain and discomfort just vanishes, releasing the body from all types of discomfort.
Foot Treatment: Non-Surgical
Treatment for all types of flat foot pain can be either non-surgical or surgical. All flat feet pain does not require surgery. They can be cured through non-surgical treatments. By wearing shoe inserts, the mid portion of the legs where the arch should be located gets good support and strength. There are special shoes that have insoles fitted into them, which helps the foot from rolling inwards and supports them. Pain may also be caused due to the overweight of the body, which has to be borne by the feet and hence causes pain. Reducing the weight may also help. There are a few simple exercises which may also help to stretch the muscles and tissues in the foot and calf region which can be done by a visit to the physiotherapist. Simple exercises such as standing only on the toes of the left foot and the right foot alternatively can be done at home. Similarly standing only on the heels of the left foot and the right foot alternatively can also be done. There are many more simple exercises that help to strengthen the leg muscles. Wearing an ankle brace helps to ease the pain in the foot. Activities that harm the foot and cause further pain should be avoided by resting the foot.
Foot Treatment: Surgical
Only for extreme cases should surgery be done such as extreme conditions of pain and discomfort that occurs through flat foot. At times, there may be abnormal bone development or extra bone growth in the foot. In such cases, an orthopedic doctor or a podiatrist, who specializes in treating foot problems, can be visited for surgical consultation.
People have different types of feet. Having an arched feet or flat feet is not a problem, unless they cause some discomfort to a person. If one stays health and fit and takes care of the feet through simple exercises and care, flat feet will not be an issue.