Feet are very variable in shape within and between ethnic groups as well as in populations generally. There is not a normal profile but a wide variation with people with foot profiles at the extremes being very high arched or very low arched, with most people somewhere nearer the middle. What will dictate the general profile of a foot is the bony shape and the soft tissue support. The first thing to say about flat feet and fallen arches is that they are not medical terms and therefore have different meaning to different people. Therefore this question is not as easy as it first might seem. Pes Planus is the medical term for flat feet.
There is a lack of normal arch development, probably due to inherent ligamentous laxity. Around 20% of adults have Pes planus. The majority have a flexible flat foot and no symptoms. However, if there is also heel cord contracture, there may be symptoms (see 'Contributing factors', below). Loss of support for the arch. Dysfunction of the tibialis posterior tendon, a common and important cause. Tear of the spring ligament (rare). Tibialis anterior rupture (rare). A neuropathic foot, e.g from diabetes, polio, or other neuropathies. Degenerative changes in foot and ankle joints. Inflammatory arthropathy, eg rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis. Fractures. Bony abnormalities, eg tarsal coalition.
Depending on the cause of the flatfoot, a patient may experience one or more of the different symptoms below. Pain along the course of the posterior tibial tendon which lies on the inside of the foot and ankle. This can be associated with swelling on the inside of the ankle. Pain that is worse with activity. High intensity or impact activities, such as running, can be very difficult. Some patients can have difficulty walking or even standing for long periods of time. When the foot collapses, the heel bone may shift position and put pressure on the outside ankle bone (fibula). This can cause pain on the outside of the ankle. Arthritis in the heel also causes this same type of pain. Patients with an old injury or arthritis in the middle of the foot can have painful, bony bumps on the top and inside of the foot. These make shoewear very difficult. Occasionally, the bony spurs are so large that they pinch the nerves which can result in numbness and tingling on the top of the foot and into the toes. Diabetics may only notice swelling or a large bump on the bottom of the foot. Because their sensation is affected, people with diabetes may not have any pain. The large bump can cause skin problems and an ulcer (a sore that does not heal) may develop if proper diabetic shoewear is not used.
Most children and adults with flatfeet do not need to see a physician for diagnosis or treatment. However, it is a good idea to see a doctor if the feet tire easily or are painful after standing, it is difficult to move the foot around or stand on the toes, the foot aches, especially in the heel or arch, and there is swelling on the inner side of the foot, the pain interferes with activity or the person has been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Most flatfeet are diagnosed during physical examination. During the exam, the foot may be wetted and the patient asked to stand on a piece of paper. An outline of the entire foot will indicate a flattened arch. Also, when looking at the feet from behind, the ankle and heel may appear to lean inward (pronation). The patient may be asked to walk so the doctor can see how much the arch flattens during walking. The doctor may also examine the patient's shoes for signs of uneven wear, ask questions about a family history of flatfeet, and inquire about known neurological or muscular diseases. Imaging tests may be used to help in the diagnosis. If there is pain or the arch does not appear when the foot is flexed, x-rays are taken to determine the cause. If tarsal coalition is suspected, computed tomography (CT scan) may be performed, and if an injury to the tendons is suspected, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI scan) may be performed.
arch support plantar fasciitis
Non Surgical Treatment
The type of treatment will depend on the stage of PTTD present. There are four stages of posterior tibial tendon dysfunction. Stage I. The posterior tibial tendon is inflamed but has normal strength. There is little to no change in the arch of the foot. The patient can still perform a single-limb heel rise and has a flexible hindfoot. Orthotic treatment options include modified off the shelf inserts and custom molded orthotics. Stage 2. The tendon is partially torn or shows degenerative changes and as a result loses strength.There is considerable flattening of the arch without arthritic changes in the foot. The patient cannot perform single-limb heel rise. Pain is now present on the lateral aspect of the ankle. Orthotic treatment is similar as that in stage I, with the addition of more rigid arch supports and wedging. Stage 3. Results when the posterior tibial tendon is torn and not functioning. As a result the arch is completely collapsed with arthritic changes in the foot. A solid ankle AFO is suggested in conjunction with a modified orthopedic shoe. Stage 4. Is identical to stage three except that the ankle joint also becomes arthritic. A rigid AFO and modified orthopedic shoe is required.
Surgical procedures for flat feet vary depending on the root cause of the condition. Surgical correction to control pronation may include bone implants or Achilles tendon lengthening. Tendon transfer, which is a procedure to re-attach a tendon to another area of bone, may also be used to reduce pronation and improve foot function.
Wear Supportive Footwear. Spend the money it takes to get proper fitting and quality footwear with good arch supports. Most sufferers of fallen arches and plantar fasciitis are born with high arches that sag as they get older. Good footwear can prevent this from becoming a problem. Flat feet, however, can become just as problematic. So, really we should all be wearing good footwear to avoid this potentially painful condition. Take It Easy. If your heel starts to hurt, take a rest. If the pain doesn?t go away after several days of resting, it may be time to see a podiatrist. Orthotics. Special insoles to support the arch of the foot can provide some much needed help. You can buy these at your local drugstore (not recommended), or you can have them specially made and custom fit for your feet. It can take awhile to get just the right one for your foot, but sometimes it can be just what you needed. Weight Control. Yes, maintaining a sensible diet with your ideal weight can be beneficial in many ways. It makes sense to think that the more weight your arches are supporting, the more easily they will fall and become painful.
Patients may go home the day of surgery or they may require an overnight hospital stay. The leg will be placed in a splint or cast and should be kept elevated for the first two weeks. At that point, sutures are removed. A new cast or a removable boot is then placed. It is important that patients do not put any weight on the corrected foot for six to eight weeks following the operation. Patients may begin bearing weight at eight weeks and usually progress to full weightbearing by 10 to 12 weeks. For some patients, weightbearing requires additional time. After 12 weeks, patients commonly can transition to wearing a shoe. Inserts and ankle braces are often used. Physical therapy may be recommended. There are complications that relate to surgery in general. These include the risks associated with anesthesia, infection, damage to nerves and blood vessels, and bleeding or blood clots. Complications following flatfoot surgery may include wound breakdown or nonunion (incomplete healing of the bones). These complications often can be prevented with proper wound care and rehabilitation. Occasionally, patients may notice some discomfort due to prominent hardware. Removal of hardware can be done at a later time if this is an issue. The overall complication rates for flatfoot surgery are low.