Flat feet or pes planus is a condition when the ligaments, tendons and small bones on the side of feet are incapable of supporting the body and eventually collapses. Flat feet are normal in infants and toddlers, but sometimes the tissue under the feet becomes firm with aging and produces a shock-absorbing arch.
Flat feet do not cause symptoms on adults, but sometimes it causes foot pain, leg and back discomfort as well as incapacity to walk, run and engage in sports. Flat feet can cause issues with the ankle and knees where it changes the alignment of the legs.
Types of flat feet
- Infants and children ages 5-10 with flat feet is normal because it takes time for the bones, ligaments and tendons found on the sides of foot to form a supportive arch. Flat feet in children do not usually cause pain.
- Tight Achilles tendon from birth or congenital reasons places plenty of pressure on the front area of the foot that prevent formation of the normal arch. It causes the heel to lift off the ground when taking a step while walking and result to pain and tension under the foot.
- Rigid and flat feet caused by bone deformity. It is considered a “true flat foot” because the shape under the foot is unchanged regardless of activity. This type of flat foot is caused by malformation and deformity or fusion that prevents development of the arch during childhood. This condition is present from birth or acquired due to injury on the foot or diseases such as osteoporosis or inflammatory arthritis.
- Adult-acquired flat feet due to obesity. It is usually caused by overstretching, overuse and damage to the posterior tibial tendon.
- Overpronation or excessive rolling of the feet inwards can result to wearing out of shoes and result to injuries on the foot.
- Problems with the muscles, bones or connective tissues around the area of the feet.
- The feet and bones were not properly formed in the womb
- A condition that affects the nerves and muscles such as spina bifida, cerebral palsy and muscle dystrophy
- Loose connective tissue such as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome or joint hypermobility syndrome
- Wear shoes with good arch support to provide benefits and total relief of the leg, foot and back symptoms. Wear walking or athletic shoes with good arch support, roomy toe box and flexible sole and firm heel to lessen the tension in the posterior tibial and Achilles tendon. Avoid wearing shoes with heels higher than 2 ¼ inches to prevent a short and tight Achilles tendon. Wear shoes with heels about ¼ or ½ inches.
- Use shoe orthotics if walking and standing for long periods of time. Orthotics are rigid inserts for the shoe for supporting the arch of the foot and for better biomechanics while walking, standing and running. Using orthotics lessens development of problems on the joints such as on the ankles, hips, knees and the lumbar spine
- If overweight or obese, try losing some weight to take away pressure on the bones, ligaments and tendons in the feet and increase the flow of blood in the area.
- Seek the help of the physical therapist for specific stretches and strengthening exercises for the feet, Achilles tendon and calf muscles for restoring the arch and making it more functional.