Last updated on July 12th, 2018
Flat foot or low arches occur when there is no arch gap left between your foot and the floor, or the gap is too little. It means that your foot lies flat on the floor or almost flat.
The arch or instep on the feet develop from childhood and its possible that children might have an arch when standing due to the presence of soft tissues, but it can only be seen if a child stands on their toes.
Is It Bad to Have a Flat Foot?
It is not bad to have a flat foot, and no treatment is required if no pain is experienced. Flat feet, however, are usually associated with pain in the feet, ankles, knees, hips or even lower back. Flat feet also cause overpronation, a condition where your feet excessively roll inwards.
Overpronation can make your shoes wear out unevenly and faster, leading to injuries. Flat feet could also be due to an underlying problem of the muscles, tendons or bones in the feet. The arches are important because they dampen movement by being springy and distribute the weight of your body on your feet.
What Causes People to Have Flat Feet?
There are many causes of flat feet. One of the most common is inheritance. Flat feet are known to run in families being passed from parents to their children. Flat feet could also result from weak arches. In such cases, the arch is there, but flattens when you stand.
Injuries such as broken or dislocated bones and diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis can cause flat feet. Nerve diseases and muscle diseases such as cerebral palsy are also known to cause flat feet. Damage to the posterior tibial tendon causes flat feet. This tendon connects your lower leg to the middle center of the arch.
How Can I Fix My Flat Feet?
There are many ways through which you can fix your flat feet. Here are some methods you can use to take care of your flat feet and offer relief when it pains:
1. Wearing Supportive and Well-Fitted Shoes
If you have flat feet, choose shoes that’ll support your kind of arch. Luckily, there are many shoe manufacturers that make shoes intended for people with flat feet. The best shoes for flat feet should have good arch support.
Arch support is important because it provides shock absorption that you lack due to flat feet. The inside of the shoe should be able to keep your foot in a neutral position. This means raising the arch and providing support for the heels.
The shoes should also be well-fitted so that there isn’t a lot of friction when you move.
2. Shoe Inserts or Orthotic Devices
Buying the right pair of shoes might not be enough, which brings us to use of inserts and Orthotic devices. The best insoles, just like shoes, should have high arches to provide you with enough support. Ensure, however, that you get the right size of insole that’ll fit you and also fit in your shoes perfectly.
Orthotics are known to provide better support for arches than insoles can. They also help to control motion, an essential element of ensuring you do not suffer pain. You can also get customized orthotics to fit your feet perfectly.
Sometimes, immobilization is necessary to fix flat feet. Immobilization can be done with an ankle brace also called ankle-foot orthotics, short-leg cast or cam-walker or boot. Immobilization helps any torn tendons to heal and also puts your foot in the right position at the joints.
Immobilization helps to reduce the development of flat feet and any other deformities the flat feet could have been causing in the ankle. After immobilization, the treatment should be followed with custom orthotics for the best results.
Research has shown that many people who have gone through immobilization come out much better to the point that they might only require inserts or orthotics to lead a normal life.
4. Rest and Ice
Flat feet can cause a lot of stress on the lower extremities of the body since you do not have shock absorbers. Moreover, your motion could hinder you a bit, making you very tired at the end of the day.
Proper rest is important because it allows your muscles to relax and replenish. Ice is good for times when you have pain in your feet. It helps to relieve pain and reduce inflammation of the muscles.
5. Stretching Exercises
Exercises for flat feet are important because they help your feet to relax, make your feet strong, increase circulation in the muscles, improve flexibility and mobility, and stretch the tendons and ligaments, causing relief.
The exercises should be aimed at increasing arch strength, stretching the important muscles and tendons and improving your flexibility. For instance, for arch strength you can do stair heel raises. Place your feet on an elevated stable platform such as the step of a staircase.
Place the front of your foot on the step so that the back hangs a bit behind you. Lift your heels so that only the balls of your feet touch the step. Hold at the topmost position and then lower slowly, resisting the urge to let your feet go down below the step.
6. Pain Relief Medication
If you have pain in your feet, you could use pain relief medication such as NSAIDs, for example, ibuprofen. This medication should only be used when pain is unbearable because using medication doesn’t get rid of the problem. Medication should also be used with all the other remedies that have been discussed here.
7. Injected Medications
Corticosteroids are a common source of relief for flat foot pain, but should only be an option for those people that are experiencing a lot of pain that even oral pain relief medication is unable to relieve.
Corticosteroids offer good relief from pain and can also reduce inflammation on the feet. They do not present a permanent solution and can be very addictive. It is important therefore that they are used sparingly.
8. Physical Therapy
Physical therapy is an ideal way of taking care of flat feet naturally and non-invasively. Physical therapists use a combination of different techniques to help relieve you of problems associated with flat feet. First, they’ll teach you some exercises that you can be doing even at home to relieve your feet.
A physical therapist also uses massages, adjustments, therapeutic ultrasounds and special tapes to give you a temporary arch. Although some of their methods don’t offer permanent solutions, they are very effective in relieving pain.
9. Maintain Normal Weight
Having flat feet is bad enough as it is, but being overweight makes it worse. Some people even acquire flat feet from being overweight by subjecting their arches to a lot of pressure, causing the tendons to break. When you lose weight, you provide the much-needed relief to your feet to feel better and notice that the pain subsides.
10. Ankle Foot Orthosis Devices
Ankle-foot orthosis devices (AFOs) are used to maintain proper alignment of your ankle and control motion. It encloses the back of your calf and the bottom of your foot, allowing motion of your ankles or not depending on your condition. The AFOs feature raised arches to offer support to your flat feet.
11. Activity Modifications
Avoid activities that cause you pain. Such activities can include driving for long distances, standing for extended periods of time, running or jogging, lifting or carrying heavy weights, and kicking with your feet.
Avoiding such activities protects your foot from increased damage. It also reduces inflammation and gives torn muscles or tendons time to heal.
12. Avoid High Impact Sports
High impact sports such as rugby and football can cause extensive injuries. They also exert a lot of pressure on your feet, making it hard to heal and thus increasing your pain. If you engage in light sporting activities such as walking or jogging, ensure you have proper shoes for controlled motion and excellent support.
Do I Need Flat Foot Surgery?
Usually most people are able to live with flat feet without the need for surgery. However, sometimes surgery is inevitable. If all the non-surgical methods listed here do not work then surgery might become a viable option. It is also viable if the cause of your flat feet is due to problems that can be corrected through surgery such as abnormal development of bones.
When you want a permanent solution to the cause of your flat feet then you can consider surgery. Once you go under the knife, the problem is mostly fixed permanently in the majority of cases.
Consult a Podiatrist
If you have flat feet, you should not suffer in pain at home without consulting a podiatrist. A podiatrist is in a position to give you the necessary advice on how you can remediate your flat feet pain and other problems. Depending on the cause of your flat feet, the podiatrist is able to determine the best way to get rid of your flat feet completely.
Will you need to lose weight? Do you need immobilization? Besides, the podiatrist is also able to provide custom made devices such as orthotics and ankle-foot orthosis devices. With all these fixes, you’ll be able to either get rid of your flat feet or live a normal life with the condition without any pain or discomfort.
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