Flat feet are a common condition. In infants and toddlers, the longitudinal arch is not developed and flat feet are normal. Most feet are flexible and an arch appears when the person stands on his or her toes. The arch develops in childhood, and by adulthood most people have developed normal arches. Most flat feet usually do not cause pain or other problems. Flat feet may be associated with pronation, a leaning inward of the ankle bones toward the center line. Shoes of children who pronate, when placed side by side, will lean toward each other (after they have been worn long enough for the foot position to remodel their shape). Foot pain, ankle pain or lower leg pain, especially in children, may be a result of flat feet and should be evaluated.
There are several reasons why arch pain develops. Sometimes it?s due to a condition known as plantar fasciitis, in which the plantar fascia (the band of tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot from your heel to your toes) becomes inflamed after excessive stress. Heel pain results from this inflammation. Sometimes the pain is due to extensive time spent on your feet. Many people feel pain on the arch of their feet after a long workday, while others overuse their feet exercising or playing sports. A foot deformity, such as hammertoe or clubfoot, can also cause this pain. Medical conditions such as diabetes or obesity can put additional stress on your feet, thereby causing arch pain. Your footwear is also important. Shoes should support all parts of your foot, especially the bottom. This is very important if you spend excessive time on your feet, if your obese, if your pregnant, or if you engage in sport-related activities. Injuries to any of the twenty-six bones, thirty-three joints and over 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments in the feet can also cause arch pain. Because the foot is such a complex structure, it?s important to see a podiatrist at the first sign of symptoms.
People suffering from pain in the arch sometimes complain of burning or soreness on the foot sole, which is worse in the morning and after physical activity. There may also be some tenderness when pressure is applied to the sole of the foot or heel. In addition to this, patients tend to complain of more pain when they stand on tiptoe.
Your doctor may order imaging tests to help make sure your heel pain is caused by plantar fasciitis and not another problem. X-rays provide clear images of bones. They are useful in ruling out other causes of heel pain, such as fractures or arthritis. Heel spurs can be seen on an x-ray. Other imaging tests, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasound, are not routinely used to diagnose plantar fasciitis. They are rarely ordered. An MRI scan may be used if the heel pain is not relieved by initial treatment methods.
Non Surgical Treatment
In mild cases of flatfoot the first line of treatment is often custom orthotics. In patients with a flexible deformity, supporting the arch with a custom arch support will take the strain off the joints and muscles, bringing the heel into a corrected position. Wider shoe gear may be prescribed to accommodate foot pain and motion and stretching exercises to decrease stiffness and stress on the foot. In cases of severe collapse, especially if the patient is not a good surgical candidate or has a mild tear, a brace may be made to accommodate the foot and ankle, thus supporting the arch and ankle.
If pain or foot damage is severe, your doctor may recommend surgery. Procedures may include the following. Fusing foot or ankle bones together (arthrodesis). Removing bones or bony growths also called spurs (excision). Cutting or changing the shape of the bone (osteotomy). Cleaning the tendons' protective coverings (synovectomy). Adding tendon from other parts of your body to tendons in your foot to help balance the "pull" of the tendons and form an arch (tendon transfer). Grafting bone to your foot to make the arch rise more naturally (lateral column lengthening).
Arch pain occurs when the plantar fascia becomes worn down due to constant strain or excessive exercising. This may be caused by increasing your running or hiking mileage too fast, wearing inadequate footwear, lack of stretching, running on steep hills, standing on your feet for too long and abnormal anatomy such as flat foot. Stretching is an important exercise that should not be overlooked because the tightness or lack of tightness of the joints in the foot can also cause pain in the arch.
Easy Beginner Version. Start with your bare foot on a flat surface, toes spread out. Place a penny under the ball of your foot and the end of a pen under the middle of your arch (sticking out from the inside of your foot). Activate your arch by flexing your arch muscle. You should feel the muscles on the ball of your foot pushing down on the penny, but your arch shouldn't be pushing down on the pen. These tools help you (1) avoid rolling your foot and (2) avoid pressing down with your toes (as an extra tip, you can slide a business card under your toes before doing the exercise-when you activate your arch, you should be able to slide the business card out easily with your fingers). Do your best to keep your toes relaxed. Advanced Version. Once you're ready to move on, you can try this advanced version. It builds on the above exercise to incorporate full body twisting and balance, helping you to maintain proper arches while you move. Using the same ideas from above, stand on a flat surface in your bare feet with a penny under the ball of your foot and the end of a pen under your arch. This time, stand with your back a few inches away form a wall or a door. Lift your other leg (the one without the penny or pen) and stand on one foot. Use the wall for balance, if necessary. Lift one arm and stretch it across your body until you touch the wall or door on the opposite side, maintaining a straight back. Keep your foot straight and your arch on the penny but above the pen. Your arch will want to follow the movement and roll off, but you will need to activate it to stay stable during the movement. Lift your other arm and stretch it across the opposite side of your body, still keeping your arch in place.