Flat feet, also known as ?fallen arches? are often viewed as problematic simply because they look abnormal, the main arch of the foot, the medial longitudinal arch, has collapsed. Though flat feet are by no means normal, they are often the result of some other underlying condition or weakness rather than a problem with the actual arch itself that has collapsed. Conventional treatment involving foot support either via supportive footwear, orthotics, or some other bracing system is usually more disadvantageous than beneficial and surgery is rarely the answer.
Training on improper, hard and/or irregular surfaces as well as excessive track work in spiked shoes, or steep hill running, can stress the plantar fascia past its limits of elasticity, leading to injury. Finally, failure in the early season to warm up gradually gives the athlete insufficient time for the structures of the foot to re-acclimate and return to a proper fitness level for intensive exercise. Such unprepared and repeated trauma causes microscopic tearing, which may only be detected once full-blown plantar fasciitis and accompanying pain and debilitation have resulted.
Most flat feet do not cause pain or other problems. Children may have foot pain, ankle pain, or lower leg pain. They should be evaluated by a health care provider if this occurs. Symptoms in adults may include tired or achy feet after long periods of standing or playing sports.
A professional therapist may use tinels test to diagnose tarsal tunnel syndrome. This involves tapping the nerve just behind the medial malleolus or bony bit of the ankle with a rubber hammer. Pain indicates a positive test. Sometimes it is initially mistaken for plantar fasciitis which also causes pain from the inside heel and throughout the arch of the foot. Neural symptoms (such as tingling or numbness) as well as the location of tenderness when touching the area should help to easily distinguish between the conditions.
Non Surgical Treatment
You may have noticed that one common element in the conservative treatment of all types of flat feet is orthoses. Many companies now manufacture semi-custom orthotic devices that not only improve comfort, but also seek to control abnormal motion of the foot. These over-the-counter inserts, in the $25 to $50 range, are an economical treatment that may help a majority of people. Unfortunately, these semi-custom devices will not fit everyone perfectly, and those of us who differ too much from the average may respond better to custom orthotic devices. Custom inserts are prescribed by your foot and ankle specialist and are made individually from either a physical or computerized impression of your feet. The only drawback of custom orthoses is their cost, ranging anywhere from $300 to $500. Many physicians recommend trying over-the-counter inserts first (and even keep them in stock) as they may save their patients large sums of money.
Cavus foot is caused in part by an over-pull of one of the lateral ankle muscles. A release of this tendon can be performed on the outside of the ankle. Additionally, a transfer of this tendon can be performed to help in correcting deformity of the ankle joint. Often patients will have a tightness of their gastrocnemius muscle, one of the main muscles in the calf. This can increase the deformity or prevent a correction from working. It is addressed with a lengthening of a part of the calf muscle or Achilles tendon. This is often performed through one or more small cuts in the back of the leg or ankle. Finally, the plantar fascia may be tight. The plantar fascia is a cord-like structure that runs from the heel to the front part of the foot. Partial or complete plantar fascia release may be done.
Maintain a healthy weight, Use insoles to support your arches, Limit how often you wear high heels, Use proper shoes, especially when exercising to evenly distribute weight through your foot.
Ankle evert or strengthening. Lie on your side with your feet hanging off the end of your bed or a weight bench. Bend the toes of the foot that is closer to the ceiling slightly toward your head. This is the starting position. Now raise your toes toward the ceiling while keeping the rest of your leg stationary. Return to the starting position. Reps. 10-15. Now point your toes slightly away from your head. This is the starting position. Raise your toes toward the ceiling. Return to the starting position. Reps. 10-15. Ankle invertor strengthening. Same as above, but do the exercises with the foot that is closer to the floor. Dorsiflexor strengthening. Sit on a desk, table, or counter so that your feet don?t touch the ground. Let your feet dangle comfortably. Bend your foot upward as far as you can comfortably go. Do not let your foot pull inward or outward. Return to the starting position. Reps. 10-15.