A flat foot is a term used to described a collapsed arch. Medically, the term is pes planovalgus (for foot flatten and pushed outwards). There are varying degrees of ?flatness?. Though not all flat feet are problematic, however, when there are painful flat feet can cause significant discomfort and activity limitations. There are two kinds of flat feet - flexible (mobile) or rigid (stiff). A flexible flat foot is one where the foot retains motion, and the arch is able to be recreated when there is no weight on the foot. In contrast, a rigid flat foot is ?stuck? in the flat position regardless of whether or not there is pressure placed on the foot.
There are a variety of causes of flat feet. Flat feet can be genetic, acquired and develop over time. Young children and teens can have no arches. Injury can lead to flat feet. Tendon problems, and arthritis can lead to flat feet. Rigid flat feet may occur from a condition called tarsal coalition, where the bones in the back of the foot are genetically fused or locked together.
Repetitive exertive activity arch pain is usually sharp, and localized to a specific area, rather than the entire arch. Usually the pain occurs in the area just in front of the heel. It is present when first standing on the foot in the morning, but may decrease once you start walking around, but will, gradually becomes worse with continued walking or running. Swelling may be present. The pain subsides with rest, but stretching the arch while resting may cause the pain to return. Injury pain is constantly present, but worse when standing on the foot. This pain is localized to a specific area, but may radiate out from this area to the entire foot. The pain is sharp, and usually accompanied by swelling and occasionally "black and blue" discolorations. The pain due to the natural aging process is usually dull and aching, or stiff, and can be felt throughout the entire arch area, rather then in just one spot. This pain is present whenever weight bearing, and usually becomes worse with continued walking. The pain gradually subsides when resting, and usually does not return with stretching. Biomechanical defect pain is usually localized to a section of the arch, such as the inner, middle, outer, front, or back of the arch. This pain may be sharp or dull, but is always worse with continued walking.
The doctor will take a brief history to determine how the injury occurred. If necessary, a thorough physical exam may be conducted to evaluate for any other injuries. Taking your workout shoes to the exam may also provide valuable information to the medical practitioner. Both feet will be physically and visually examined by the medical practitioner. The foot and arch will be touched and manipulated possibly with a lot of pressure and inspected to identify obvious deformities, tender spots, or any differences in the bones of the foot and arch.
Non Surgical Treatment
A new ankle foot orthosis known as the Richie Brace, offered by PAL Health Systems, has proven to show significant success in treating Stage II posterior tibial dysfunction and the adult acquired flatfoot. This is a sport-style brace connected to a custom corrected foot orthotic device that fits well into most forms of lace-up footwear, including athletic shoes. The brace is light weight and far more cosmetically appealing than the traditional ankle foot orthosis previously prescribed.
The procedure involves cutting and shifting the bone, and then performing a tendon transfer. First, the surgeon performs a calcaneal osteotomy, cutting the heel bone and shifting it into the correct position. Second, the surgeon transfers the tendon. Reroute the flexor digitorum to replace the troublesome posterior tibial tendon. Finally, the surgeon typically performs one or more fine-tuning procedures that address the patient?s specific foot deformity. Often, the surgeon will lengthen the Achilles tendon because it is common for the mispositioned foot to cause the Achilles to tighten. Occasionally, to increase the arch, the surgeon performs another osteotomy of one of the bones of the midfoot. Occasionally, to point the foot in a straightforward direction, the surgeon performs another osteotomy of the outside portion of the calcaneus.
Early in the treatment of arch pain, consideration needs to be given to the cause and strategies put in place to prevent it happening again. Advice should be sought on the adequacy of footwear. Stretching exercises should be continued long after the symptoms are gone. Foot orthoses should be used if structural imbalances are present. Activity levels and types of activities (occupational and sporting) need to be considered and modified accordingly.
Easy Beginner Version. Start with your bare foot on a flat surface, toes spread out. Place a penny under the ball of your foot and the end of a pen under the middle of your arch (sticking out from the inside of your foot). Activate your arch by flexing your arch muscle. You should feel the muscles on the ball of your foot pushing down on the penny, but your arch shouldn't be pushing down on the pen. These tools help you (1) avoid rolling your foot and (2) avoid pressing down with your toes (as an extra tip, you can slide a business card under your toes before doing the exercise-when you activate your arch, you should be able to slide the business card out easily with your fingers). Do your best to keep your toes relaxed. Advanced Version. Once you're ready to move on, you can try this advanced version. It builds on the above exercise to incorporate full body twisting and balance, helping you to maintain proper arches while you move. Using the same ideas from above, stand on a flat surface in your bare feet with a penny under the ball of your foot and the end of a pen under your arch. This time, stand with your back a few inches away form a wall or a door. Lift your other leg (the one without the penny or pen) and stand on one foot. Use the wall for balance, if necessary. Lift one arm and stretch it across your body until you touch the wall or door on the opposite side, maintaining a straight back. Keep your foot straight and your arch on the penny but above the pen. Your arch will want to follow the movement and roll off, but you will need to activate it to stay stable during the movement. Lift your other arm and stretch it across the opposite side of your body, still keeping your arch in place.