Flat is a popular style for many things. People want flat TVs, flat phones, flat tablets that fit into bags, and so on. They don’t want something large and bulky taking up space. On the other hand, flat isn’t great for everything—particularly your feet. In fact, your lower limbs are more like architecture: they’re much stronger when arches help distribute weight and pressure over an area. That is why flat feet can be such a problem for your biomechanics.
Why Feet Are Flat
Flatfoot is a very common foot shape in both children and adults. It can be a natural shape that you inherited, or it can be the result of issues causing your arches to “fall.” Most people with this condition have always had it. Their feet developed low arches, or none at all, during early childhood. Other people, however, suffer from wear and tear, injuries, or other problems that allow the midfoot to collapse inward.
Sometimes simply excess weight from pregnancy or obesity can cause arches to fall. Problems with the posterior tibial tendon, which supports the midfoot, can allow it to collapse, too. Preexisting medical conditions in the nerves or muscles make it more likely as well. Tarsal coalition, which involves fused bones in the middle of the foot, can keep the arch abnormally low. However the condition developed, the end result is that your midfoot is lower to the ground than normal, and may not distribute pressure or absorb shock efficiently.
Complications of Flat or Fallen Arches
Not every flat foot causes pain. Some people, especially children, experience no side effects of a low arch. Other people, however, find that the added pressure from low or fallen arches contributes to pain and overuse problems. The ankle may be prone to tilting inward, straining not only that joint, but your shins and knees as well. Shin splints and general aches and pains when you’re active are common. This may contribute to discomfort in the hips and back as well.
Managing Your Flatfoot Pain
For the vast majority of people living with painfully flat feet, the discomfort is easy to manage conservatively. Dr. Darren Silvester and our team here at Next Step Foot & Ankle Clinic will need to examine your lower limbs carefully to determine if your low arches are the source of your discomfort. Then we can use tests to identify factors that may be influencing the problem. From there we can work with you to establish a treatment plan for your lower limbs.
Supporting your arches and minimizing the strain on your feet is the most important step. This means wearing comfortable shoes that stabilize your feet and avoiding styles with flat insoles or high heels. You might need arch supports or custom orthotics to help your feet distribute weight and pressure more evenly. Most likely you’ll need to cut back on activities that cause you pain. In a few cases, a short time in a splint or cast to keep your foot totally still while tissues heal may help. Physical therapy may help, too; stretching tight tendons and strengthening the supporting muscles may teach your foot to handle pressure better. Surgery is reserved for extreme cases that don’t respond to care.
Flatfoot doesn’t have to be a serious problem in your life. Many people live with low arches and no pain. If you do have discomfort, though, don’t put off taking care of it. Address the problem sooner than later, so it doesn’t get worse. Dr. Darren Silvester and our team at Next Step Foot & Ankle Clinic are here to help you. Use our website or call (830) 569-3338 to make an appointment at our Pleasanton, TX, office.