What Is Flatfoot?
Flatfoot is often a complex disorder, with diverse symptoms and varying degrees of deformity and disability. There are several types of flatfoot, all of which have one characteristic in common: partial or total collapse (loss) of the arch.
Other characteristics shared by most types of flatfoot include:
- “Toe drift,” in which the toes and front part of the foot point outward
- The heel tilts toward the outside and the ankle appears to turn in
- A tight Achilles tendon, which causes the heel to lift off the ground earlier when walking and may make the problem worse
- Bunions and hammertoes may develop as a result of a flatfoot.
Flexible flatfoot is one of the most common types of flatfoot. It typically begins in childhood or adolescence and continues into adulthood. It usually occurs in both feet and progresses in severity throughout the adult years. As the deformity worsens, the soft tissues (tendons and ligaments) of the arch may stretch or tear and can become inflamed.
The term “flexible” means that while the foot is flat when standing (weight-bearing), the arch returns when not standing.
Symptoms, which may occur in some persons with flexible flatfoot, include:
- Pain in the heel, arch, ankle, or along the outside of the foot
- “Rolled-in” ankle (over-pronation)
- Pain along the shin bone (shin splint)
- General aching or fatigue in the foot or leg
- Low back, hip or knee pain.
In diagnosing flatfoot, the chiropodist examines the foot and observes how it looks when you stand and sit. The chiropodist, after extensive examination, will be able to detail a treatment option that is best for you.
If you experience symptoms with flexible flatfoot, the chiropodist may recommend non-surgical treatment options, including:
- Activity modifications. Cut down on activities that bring you pain and avoid prolonged walking and standing to give your arches a rest.
- Weight loss. If you are overweight, try to lose weight. Putting too much weight on your arches may aggravate your symptoms.
- Orthotic devices. Your chiropodist can provide you with custom orthotic devices for your shoes to give more support to the arches.
- In some cases, it may be necessary to use a walking cast or to completely avoid weight-bearing.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, help reduce pain and inflammation.
- Physical therapy. Ultrasound therapy or other physical therapy modalities may be used to provide temporary relief.
- Shoe modifications. Wearing shoes that support the arches is important for anyone who has flatfoot.