Fallen arches, also known as flat feet or pes planus, may be present at birth or develop later in life. The midfoot normally exhibits a slight arch, keeping this region raised during walking. Absence of the normal arch causes flattening of the sole. Many people with fallen arches have no associated symptoms, while others experience foot pain or fatigue. Treatment for fallen arches depends on the severity of the condition and associated symptoms.
A common cause of foot arch pain is a stress fracture. They tend to occur from repeated overloading of one of the foot bones from activities such as jumping and running especially if you have suddenly increased your activity level. The breaks in the bone may be small but they can be extremely painful. Stress fractures of the metatarsal bones or the navicular can cause anything from mild to severe foot arch pain. The Tibialis Posterior muscle plays a very important role in supporting the medial arch of the foot. Posterior Tibial Tendonitis can occur either through repetitive use e.g. high impact sports such as soccer or tennis, or from an injury e.g. a fall. This causes the tendon to become inflamed or even torn, resulting in pain on bottom of foot. This pain usually gets worse with activity or when standing for long periods. If the problem persists, the inner side of the foot (known as the medial longitudinal arch of the foot) gradually collapses down, causing flat feet. A simple test for this condition is to stand on one leg and rise up onto your tiptoes. If you cannot, it indicates a problem with the Posterior Tibial tendon. Treatment usually consists of rest, ice, exercises, orthotics and physical therapy.
Flat feet can exhibit a variety of symptoms, from mild to severe. The extent of the flat foto does not always correlate with the extent of symptoms. Patients may complain of arch pain and heel pain. Commonly there is pain on the outside of the foot, where the foot meets the ankle as the collapse foot abuts against the ankle. Muscle cramps within the foot, and onto the leg (shin splints) may occur. In general, patients have pain with activity, such as walking or running. The pain may be deep and focal to a generalized widespread achy feeling. Irritation from shoe gear can cause redness and swelling. Common reasons patients seek treatment are pain, interference with walking or activities, difficulty fitting shoes, swelling, and notice a change in appearance of the foot and/or unsightly appearance.
Flat feet are easy to identify while standing or walking. When someone with flat feet stands, their inner foot or arch flattens and their foot may roll over to the inner side. This is known as overpronation. To see whether your foot overpronates, stand on tiptoes or push your big toe back as far as possible. If the arch of your foot doesn't appear, your foot is likely to overpronate when you walk or run. It can be difficult to tell whether a child has flat feet because their arches may not fully develop until they're 10 years of age.
Non Surgical Treatment
In mild cases of flatfoot the first line of treatment is often custom orthotics. In patients with a flexible deformity, supporting the arch with a custom arch support will take the strain off the joints and muscles, bringing the heel into a corrected position. Wider shoe gear may be prescribed to accommodate foot pain and motion and stretching exercises to decrease stiffness and stress on the foot. In cases of severe collapse, especially if the patient is not a good surgical candidate or has a mild tear, a brace may be made to accommodate the foot and ankle, thus supporting the arch and ankle.
Surgery is considered only after 12 months of aggressive nonsurgical treatment. Gastrocnemius recession. This is a surgical lengthening of the calf (gastrocnemius) muscles. Because tight calf muscles place increased stress on the plantar fascia, this procedure is useful for patients who still have difficulty flexing their feet, despite a year of calf stretches. In gastrocnemius recession, one of the two muscles that make up the calf is lengthened to increase the motion of the ankle. The procedure can be performed with a traditional, open incision or with a smaller incision and an endoscope, an instrument that contains a small camera. Your doctor will discuss the procedure that best meets your needs. Complication rates for gastrocnemius recession are low, but can include nerve damage. Plantar fascia release. If you have a normal range of ankle motion and continued heel pain, your doctor may recommend a partial release procedure. During surgery, the plantar fascia ligament is partially cut to relieve tension in the tissue. If you have a large bone spur, it will be removed, as well. Although the surgery can be performed endoscopically, it is more difficult than with an open incision. In addition, endoscopy has a higher risk of nerve damage. The most common complications of release surgery include incomplete relief of pain and nerve damage. Most patients have good results from surgery. However, because surgery can result in chronic pain and dissatisfaction, it is recommended only after all nonsurgical measures have been exhausted.
Warm up properly. This means not only stretching prior to a given athletic event, but a gradual rather than sudden increase in volume and intensity over the course of the training season. A frequent cause of plantar fasciitis is a sudden increase of activity without suitable preparation. Avoid activities that cause pain. Running on steep terrain, excessively hard or soft ground, etc can cause unnatural biomechanical strain to the foot, resulting in pain. This is generally a sign of stress leading to injury and should be curtailed or discontinued. Shoes, arch support. Athletic demands placed on the feet, particularly during running events, are extreme. Injury results when supportive structures in the foot have been taxed beyond their recovery capacity. Full support of the feet in well-fitting footwear reduces the likelihood of injury. Rest and rehabilitation. Probably the most important curative therapy for cases of plantar fasciitis is thorough rest. The injured athlete must be prepared to wait out the necessary healing phase, avoiding temptation to return prematurely to athletic activity.
Plantar Fasciitis stretches can be incorporated into a comprehensive treatment regime which may involve: ice, heel wedge support, taping, massage, muscle strengthening, orthotic inserts for shoes, topical anti inflammatory gel or oral medication and/or corticosteroid injections. If you suspect you may have Plantar Fasciitis seek accurate diagnosis and treatment from a health professional to ensure a correct diagnosis and reduce the likelihood of developing chronic foot pain. Treatment interventions may be provided by your Physical Therapist, Podiatrist and/or doctor.