Flat feet and fallen arches are common conditions that are in most cases asymptomatic. However, in patients who do have symptoms, treatments are available that can help reduce pain and promote efficient movement. Orthotic devices are well recognised as an excellent treatment and podiatrists can offer these different treatment modalities as individualised treatments for patients.
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.
Not everyone who has flat feet experiences symptoms. Others, however, feel persistent pain in their feet and wearing shoes can prove additionally painful. Others only feel symptoms when they walk more than normal, go jogging or participate in a sport that involves running or kicking.
If your child has flatfeet, his or her doctor will ask about any family history of flatfeet or inherited foot problems. In a person of any age, the doctor will ask about occupational and recreational activities, previous foot trauma or foot surgery and the type of shoes worn. The doctor will examine your shoes to check for signs of excessive wear. Worn shoes often provide valuable clues to gait problems and poor bone alignment. The doctor will ask you to walk barefoot to evaluate the arches of the feet, to check for out-toeing and to look for other signs of poor foot mechanics. The doctor will examine your feet for foot flexibility and range of motion and feel for any tenderness or bony abnormalities. Depending on the results of this physical examination, foot X-rays may be recommended. X-rays are always performed in a young child with rigid flatfeet and in an adult with acquired flatfeet due to trauma.
pes planus radiology
Non Surgical Treatment
The simplest form of treatment is the use of custom fitted orthotics. For this, it is best to see a podiatrist, who is a trained medical professional that assesses feet and gives you a prescription for the orthotic. If the orthotics do not work - or if the deformity is very severe - then surgical management may be needed. There is a very wide range of procedures available, with varying downtimes and complexity. The simplest procedure of all is a simple calf release. This can be done at the back of the knee or the calf, and has a very quick recovery. It is a day-surgery procedure, and the patient can walk immediately after the surgery without the need for a cast. Recovery back to jogging can be as early as three weeks. The calf release stops the deforming force but obviously does not correct the arch itself. It is usually done in combination with some of the other procedures mentioned below. Done by itself, the patient will probably still require orthotics but by releasing the calf, it allows the orthotics to be much more effective. The other end of the spectrum is a complete reconstruction of the arch with bone work and screws to fuse joints.
In cases of flat feet that have progressed substantially or have failed to improve with non-surgical treatment, surgery may be required and in some advanced cases, surgery may be the only option. Your foot and ankle surgeon will determine the best approach for you.