It is rare to find someone who walks with both feet in perfect alignment. Often we walk on the inside or outsides of our feet, or with our toes or heels rotated inward. These typical walking patterns can cause many problems not just with the feet but also for the whole body as the alignment of the feet sets the foundation for the whole body?s alignment. One of the most common effects of improper alignment is known as flatfoot, or fallen arches.
Flat feet are often a congenital problem which has no specific cause. They can however occur after an injury, especially conditions such as Tibialis Posterior Syndrome or more traumatic injuries such as fractures or mid-tarsal joint sprains. The other thing to look out for is Overpronation. Often this is confused with having flat feet (or a fallen arch) although it is not technically the same thing. If an individual does not have flat feet but does overpronate then the arch of their foot appears to be normal when standing. However, when they walk the arch collapses and the foot rolls in excessively. This is more difficult to spot than flat feet. It is estimated that between 60 and 80% of the population overpronate!
A significant number of people with fallen arches (flat feet) experience no pain and have no problems. Some, however, may experience pain in their feet, especially when the connecting ligaments and muscles are strained. The leg joints may also be affected, resulting in pain. If the ankles turn inwards because of flat feet the most likely affected areas will be the feet, ankles and knees. Some people have flat feet because of a developmental fault during childhood, while others may find that the problem develops as they age, or after a pregnancy. There are some simple devices which may prevent the complications of flat feet.
There are a few simple ways to assess your foot type, and most include making an imprint of your footprint. The classic way is to stand on a hard floor surface with wet feet to make a wet foot print. Look at the narrowest part of your footprint, which should be between your heel and ball of your foot. If the print of your foot in this part is less than 10% of the width of the widest part then you are likely to have high arches. more than 10% but less than 25% then your foot profile is probably normal, more than 25% or even the widest part, then you have flat feet.
Non Surgical Treatment
Treatment of flat feet may be appropriate if there is associated foot or lower leg pain, or if the condition affects the knees or the lower back. Treatment may include using Orthoses such as an arch support, foot gymnastics or other exercises as recommended by a podiatrist/orthotist or physical therapist. In cases of severe flat feet, orthoses should be used through a gradual process to lessen discomfort. Over several weeks, slightly more material is added to the orthosis to raise the arch. These small changes allow the foot structure to adjust gradually, as well as giving the patient time to acclimatise to the sensation of wearing orthoses. Once prescribed, orthoses are generally worn for the rest of the patient's life. In some cases, surgery can provide lasting relief, and even create an arch where none existed before; it should be considered a last resort, as it is usually very time consuming and costly.
Surgery is typically offered as a last resort in people with significant pain that is resistant to other therapies. The treatment of a rigid flatfoot depends on its cause. Congenital vertical talus. Your doctor may suggest a trial of serial casting. The foot is placed in a cast and the cast is changed frequently to reposition the foot gradually. However, this generally has a low success rate. Most people ultimately need surgery to correct the problem. Tarsal coalition. Treatment depends on your age, extent of bone fusion and severity of symptoms. For milder cases, your doctor may recommend nonsurgical treatment with shoe inserts, wrapping of the foot with supportive straps or temporarily immobilizing the foot in a cast. For more severe cases, surgery is necessary to relieve pain and improve the flexibility of the foot. Lateral subtalar dislocation. The goal is to move the dislocated bone back into place as soon as possible. If there is no open wound, the doctor may push the bone back into proper alignment without making an incision. Anesthesia is usually given before this treatment. Once this is accomplished, a short leg cast must be worn for about four weeks to help stabilize the joint permanently. About 15% to 20% of people with lateral subtalar dislocation must be treated with surgery to reposition the dislocated bone.
Donning a first-rate pair of arch supports, therapeutic socks and proper footwear before heading out to enjoy hours of holiday fun is one option to consider. Your podiatrist can help you find just the right ones. Once you have them on, they?ll help ease the amount of pressure being put on your body and keep the blood flowing in the right direction. While you?re standing in line, consider doing a bit of exercise as well. We?re not talking about channeling your inner Jack LaLanne here. Otherwise, you might attract the attention of the mall security guards. Simple ankle rotations and walking in place may help to reduce edema and give your flat feet a bit of a break. If you happen to be in a shopping mall or center where foot massages are available, take advantage of them periodically. They are likely to make you feel better and it?s a great excuse to carve out a few quiet moments for yourself. If you can?t visit a professional, tuck a personal foot massager into your purse. That way, you can lightly massage your own feet during the car ride home. Lastly, there are certain foods and nutritional supplements available that may reduce edema caused by standing on flat feet for hours at a time. The list includes potassium rich foods like raisins, bananas, baby carrots, nuts and yogurt. So, you may want to pack a snack for those trips to the mall or hit the food court before you hit the stores.
Patients may go home the day of surgery or they may require an overnight hospital stay. The leg will be placed in a splint or cast and should be kept elevated for the first two weeks. At that point, sutures are removed. A new cast or a removable boot is then placed. It is important that patients do not put any weight on the corrected foot for six to eight weeks following the operation. Patients may begin bearing weight at eight weeks and usually progress to full weightbearing by 10 to 12 weeks. For some patients, weightbearing requires additional time. After 12 weeks, patients commonly can transition to wearing a shoe. Inserts and ankle braces are often used. Physical therapy may be recommended. There are complications that relate to surgery in general. These include the risks associated with anesthesia, infection, damage to nerves and blood vessels, and bleeding or blood clots. Complications following flatfoot surgery may include wound breakdown or nonunion (incomplete healing of the bones). These complications often can be prevented with proper wound care and rehabilitation. Occasionally, patients may notice some discomfort due to prominent hardware. Removal of hardware can be done at a later time if this is an issue. The overall complication rates for flatfoot surgery are low.