People with normal, fully- developed foot arches have a notable upward curve in the middle of the foot. When arches develop fully, the tendons and ligaments in the foot and lower leg help provide support and stabilize it. Flatfeet, also called fallen arches, occur as the result of an undeveloped or collapsed arch. Most cases of flatfeet are hereditary and are present from birth. In other cases, flatfeet can develop after an injury or overuse.
Flatfeet are a common and usually painless condition in children, though it can cause some arch pain in adolescents and adults. For adults, pain may occur during or after physical activity and there may be some dull pain after long periods of rest. The cause of fallen arches is simple: the tendons and ligaments that support the arch weaken and collapse due to too much stress or overuse.
Signs and Symptoms of Flatfeet
Children whose arches do not develop aren’t always affected by flatfeet. However, some cases of flatfeet can cause problems in other areas of the body—flatfeet have been shown to cause misalignment of joints.
While many adults do not exhibit any outward signs or symptoms that indicate flatfeet, some people may feel some arch pain. More often than not, flatfeet causes noticeable fatigue in the arches, heels, knees, or lower back. Other common symptoms of flatfeet include:
- Feet that ache
- Swollen feet
- Difficulty moving the foot
- Back or leg pain
Testing for Flatfeet
To find out if you have flatfeet, there is a simple test you can do on your own—all you need is a concrete surface and some water. Start by getting your feet wet, then stand normally on a flat surface; step away from the imprints and evaluate the step marks. People with normal arches will see an imprint with the inside curve of the foot missing. People with flatfeet will see the entire imprint of the bottom of the foot.
Treating flatfeet medically depends on the severity and cause of the problem. It’s important to have flatfeet examined by a podiatrist, because it can lead to more serious problems like ankle or knee pain, or arthritis. When flatfeet cause severe pain or begin contributing to other conditions, your doctor may suggest one or more of the following treatments:
- Orthotic devices
- Stretching exercises
- Supportive shoes
- Physical therapy
When pain or foot damage becomes severe, your doctor may recommend surgery. Contact your podiatrist today for more information or to set up a consultation.