Flat Feet

Flat feet can lead to problems with you ankles, knees, hips, or lower back.

What Are Flat Feet?

The arch of the foot is its main supportive structure. If this arch loses strength, the bony framework begins to collapse, causing your foot to flatten. Like a sagging bridge, the weakness in the middle strains the joints at both ends of your foot.

Causes

There are many causes of flat feet. Some people are born with them. Others acquire flat feet as a result of arthritis, trauma, or musculoskeletal disorders. Overuse or repeated pounding on hard surfaces can also weaken the foot’s arch.

Symptoms

Discomfort from flat feet often doesn’t appear for years. At some point, pain may be felt and walking may become awkward as increasing strain is put on your feet and calves.

Related Problems

The excess strain from flat feet can cause other foot problems, such as hammertoes, bunions, heel spurs, arch strain, corns, neuromas, and sagging joints. Flat feet can also affect other parts of the body, causing fatigue, pain, or stiffness in the ankles, knees, hips, and lower back.

How Does My Podiatrist Treat Flat?

If flat feet are diagnosed at an early age, chance are good that nonsurgical treatment, such as strapping, custom shoes inserted (orthotics), or medication can help the problem.

Nonsurgical Care

Strapping

Taping your feet may help by temporarily maintaining the proper position of your feet.

Orthotics

Custom orthotics can readjust the weight-bearing position of your feet. Soft, semi-flexible, or rigid insert inserts may be used, depending on your weight and physical activity.

Medication

You may be given anti-inflammatory medication to temporarily relieve pain caused by flat feet.

Surgery

If your flat feet cause chronic pain, surgery may be needed to correct the alignment of the bones in your feet, or to support or reinforce the tendon structures in your feet.

What Can I Do About Flat Feet?

To help ease the pain of flat feet, try the following as part of your daily routine. If you have continuing problems, be sure to see your podiatrist.

Stretching

To stretch your soles and tendon, try: Lean on something stationary, with one leg in front of the other and both heels flat. Bend the front knee. Hold for 10 seconds. Bend your back knee, bringing the heel up. Hold for 10 seconds. Do this 5 times with each leg.

Shoes

Be sure your shoes are supportive and comfortable, with enough space in the toe box for toes to wriggle. Women should wear low-heeled shoes, not pumps.

Soaking and Massage

Warm-water soaks or ice massage can help relieve pain. But if you have diabetes or a circulation problem, talk with your podiatrist first.

Return to Foot and Ankle Topics

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