What is Flat Foot?
The medical term for flat feet is pes planus. You may be diagnosed with flat feet when you present to a medical provider with decreased space upon standing and walking underneath your feet that should appear underneath the arch of your foot. The cause of a flat foot can be much more involved than solely ‘fallen arches’ and a thorough examination of your foot is a necessity in order to determine the exact cause of your flat feet. Flat feet can be present in a child in only one foot if a foot fails to completely develop from birth but this condition is most commonly present in both feet.
What Causes Flat Feet?
The foot is incredibly complex. Each foot is made up of 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments, and 19 muscles. When something happens to one of these structures, it affects every other structure in the foot. Of great importance when diagnosing the cause of flat feet is a joint at the back of the foot called the subtalar joint. This joint is responsible for side to side motion of the foot. Often in people with flat feet, the subtalar joint is excessively lax and causes the foot to be turned outward when standing and the entire weight of the body to be borne by the inside of the foot. Usually, the weight of the body would be evenly spread throughout the feet but is significantly imbalanced with an outwardly turned subtalar joint.
By far the most common cause of a flat foot is fallen arches. This happens when the bones and connective tissue that make up the arch of your foot fail to provide the support it is supposed to. This leads to the entire sole of your foot coming in contact with the ground when standing and walking.
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Symptoms of Flat Feet
Visually, the symptoms of flat feet will be obvious. It is easy to tell when looking at a person standing or walking if the arches of their feet are properly positioned. You may experience pain in the heel of your foot or in the area of the arch of the foot. This pain generally worsens with activity.
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Can Flat Feet be Fixed? | Flat Feet Treatments
The treatment for flat feet typically involves a non-conservative approach. Fitting a custom orthotic to your shoes or changing your shoes to ones with prominent arch supports may take away any pain that you are experiencing as this will help to balance out the stresses placed on the feet. It is not possible to change the structure of the foot with exercise, but the pain and decreased function caused by this condition can be minimized by strengthening the muscles in the feet in order to help provide support where it is needed. Surgery is not indicated for flat feet alone, but surgical intervention may be necessary in order to correct another problem associated with having flat feet, such as a tendon or ligament tear.