The type of foot you have may not be something that you think about on a daily basis. After all, why are you going to be spending your time thinking about the type of foot you have when it was simply something that you were born with?
Sometimes having a certain type of foot can be painful and can actually interfere with someone’s overall quality of life. That’s what makes flat feet treatment so important. But in order to understand the treatment, you have to understand flat feet and flat feet pain.
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What does it mean to have Flat Feet?
If someone tells you that you are “flat-footed” it isn’t an insult. Flat Feet means that your foot doesn’t have a very obvious arch, or it doesn’t have an arch at all. This means that instead of your foot arching up in the middle on the inside of your step, it remains flat all the way from toes to heel.
How do I know if I have Flat Feet
There are a number of tests that can be done to see whether or not you have flat feet. Typically, a podiatrist can do a series of visual tests to determine if you have this condition or not. The most common test is the wet footprint test.
In the wet footprint test, you would need to get your whole foot wet, and then stand on a piece of cardboard or a brown paper bag. You would then repeat this process with the other foot. Then you would examine the results.
- If you have a normal arch, then the middle of your footprint should be halfway filled and have decent sized curve along the inside. This means your arches are at the correct height for walking and running.
- If you have a high arch, you should mainly see your heel and the balls of your feet. You may see a little in the arch area but not much. This means you will most likely have a harder time with shock absorption when walking or running. Extra cushioning is required for high arches, and this can be done through shoes or inserts.
- If you have flat feet, the area where your arch should be will be almost completely filled in with no curve (or a barely visible curve) inside. This can cause your foot to roll inward.
There are unfortunately a number of problems that can be caused by flat feet. One of the biggest is the predisposition for plantar fasciitis. If you do have flat feet, you want to make sure to avoid over-training when running. Too many extra miles at once can lead to issues with plantar fasciitis.
Flat feet causes your whole foot to lean inward when you walk or run. This is known as overpronation. Overpronation places extra stress on your ankles, and can cause issues all the way up your legs due to a misalignment of weight distribution. It can cause stress and even swelling in the knee and hip joints
What are the Symptoms of Flat Feet
One of the first things you might notice if you’re looking for signs of flat feet is the wear on your shoes. You should see that the inside of your shoes is much more worn than the outside. This means that your feet are rolling inward as you walk and run, placing extra stress on the interior tread of the shoe. This rolling can lead to multiple other symptoms:
- Pain or swelling in the ankles
- Knee and hip pain
- Heel and arch pain
If you find that you do have flat feet, but you don’t experience any pain, that can be normal. Most cases are milder and really don’t require any treatment. Just try to look for shoes that are designed to prevent overpronation. This will help to reduce the risk of any injury in the future.
What are the Causes of Flat Feet
Flat feet can develop for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it is a genetic trait that is carried down during a pregnancy. Another issue often could be a tarsal coalition. This means that the bones of the foot are fused together and the arch is not able to develop. In these cases, it is diagnosed in early childhood so that parents and children can be aware of any potential treatment down the road to help promote better comfort when walking.
Another common cause of flat feet is an injury to the foot ankle or damage to the posterior tibial tendon. These injuries can cause the natural arch in the foot to collapse and create a flat foot instead. In these cases the arch doesn’t instantly collapse, it simply weakens over time as the injury heals and a flat foot develops. Sometimes it’s a partial flat foot and other times it’s a full flat food with no sign of an arch.
Normally, having flat feet isn’t something that is anything more of a descriptor, but there are many who are suffering from pain and discomfort as a direct result of having flat feet. That makes therapy such as flat feet exercise or even flat feet shoe inserts critical.
What are Different Types of Flat Feet
Type 1: Flexible Flat Feet
You may find that you experience no pain or symptoms other than a little abnormal shoe wear after running. That means you probably have what is known as flexible flat feet.
This means that while you stand, your feet have little to no arch, but they aren’t incapable of forming one! A good way to check for this is to stand on your tiptoes and see if your feet form an arch. If they do, then you have flexible flat feet.
Type 2: Rigid Flat Feet
If your feet don’t form an arch, chances are that you have rigid flat feet. This unfortunately means that your feet are incapable of forming arches. Rigid flat feet are caused more by bone structure and are very difficult, to fix.
The best thing to do is to treat them with specialty shoes and orthopedic inserts to help alleviate any issues. As always, check with your doctor and see what they recommend! You might find that they bring up maximalist shoes for you during your visit.
Is there any Advantages on Flat Feet?
Although flat feet is widely considered as a negative physical condition, there are people experiencing some upside with it. Let’s take a look at both side:
Flat Feet Advantages: During sport such as basketball or volleyball that require jumping, feet with normal arch need to make an effort to roll inward for the purpose of absorbing shock. Flat feet do this naturally. Another example like fast running where normally arched foot needs to make intense contact with the surface to push the body forward, and flat feet runners do this naturally.
Flat Feet Disadvantages: Like a double-edged sword, since flat feet doesn’t lower the arch to absorb shock, your body weight is then moved on to your lower back. Back pain may be developed with years of this type of burden on the lower back. Another common disadvantage for people with flat feet is having poor stability and they tend to consume more energy used in walking and running.
My Child has Flat Feet What Should I Do?
Flat feet is one of the more common issues that millions of people deal with every day. It is a condition in which the arches of the feet have not properly developed, and the entire sole will touch the ground.
For parents who see their babies or toddlers with flat feet, do not panic. It takes some time for the arches to develop in their feet. Your physician will let you know if there is some issue with the development of the arches in your child’s feet. It’s also true that many adults will have their arches fall due to wear and tear, but that is a somewhat different condition compared to children who develop flat feet.
The good news for parents is that flat feet are not only common, but they are often painless. If that is the case, then you do not have to worry. However, sometimes flat feet can cause the body to misalign when standing, walking, jogging, or running. In this case, a child may develop issues with their knees and ankles as a result.
Signs of Flat Feet In Toddlers
If your child exhibits the following symptoms, then they may need treatment for their flat feet.
- Pain in the feet, particularly in the arch or heel area
- Pain that increases with motion
- Heel cords that are tight
- Swelling of the ankles
Repeatedly spraining the ankles may be another sign that indicates treatment may be needed. Your doctor should be the first source of information about what to do next.
It helps if you can identify a specific time or incident in which your child started experiencing the pain and discomfort. You may find that the source is something simple and can be addressed immediately, such as poorly fitted shoes. A good way to avoid this condition is to ensure that the shoes fit properly and have the right arch support.
However, in many cases, there is no specific issue that causes the pain and discomfort your child is experiencing. Over time, the growth of their body combined with increased activity has probably caused such issues to gradually appear.
Getting Your Child Tested for Flat Feet
When your child has demonstrated one or more symptoms with their flat feet, they should be tested by a specialist known as a podiatrist. Your doctor will recommend this course of action if necessary. A podiatrist will generally conduct simple tests first to determine if the child’s motion is noticed when walking. Plus, the shoes that they wear every day will be examined to see if any patterns have developed.
The podiatrist will get a full history of the issues, ask the child to describe what is happening with their feet, and if the pain is caused by a particular activity. If the pain is significant, then the following may occur.
- CT Scan: Detailed images of the interior of the feet
- EOS Imaging: Creates a three-dimensional model of the feet
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): Shows images of the soft tissues in the feet
- X–ray: To see if the bones of the feet are being affected
X-rays are often a last resort because of the radiation. But if there is a bone issue, the x-ray will show it. The combination of patient history, observation of movement, wear patterns in the shoes, and imaging of the feet itself will provide enough information for the podiatrist to prescribe a treatment.
Again, if your child is not suffering from any pain, discomfort, or issues that are causing injuries to occur, then you do not need to do anything else. Only when something is wrong, do you need to have treatment applied.
Lose Weight: If your child is overweight, then the additional pressure may be causing the pain.
Pain Relief Medication: If the pain is temporary, then over the counter or prescription medications may be the answer.
Stretching: If the issue centers on the Achilles tendon, then some stretching exercises may work. This helps to relieve the tightness and reduce the amount of pain.
Support Shoes: In other words, avoid footwear that provides no support such as flip-flops and sandals. Instead, have your child wear shoes that provide arch support, and that may resolve the issue.
Support for Arches: Simple arch supports, which are often inserts for each shoe, may help relieve the pain and discomfort of flat feet. They are relatively inexpensive and can be purchased over the counter, or if your child has a particular issue, the insert can be custom-made.
If the issues with the feet develop because of overuse, such as from excessing running or movement, then the prescription may range from simple rest to physical therapy for pain relief. Your podiatrist will have several exercises that may be quite helpful in this regard.
Keep in mind that surgical solutions are rare and most often not needed. The only exceptions would be a broken bone, torn tendon, or other conditions that warrant surgery.
Another good news for parents that have children with flat feet is that follow-up care is normally not necessary once the condition has been identified. In other words, once the issues causing the pain has been treated, you do not need to have your child undergo yet another examination.
There are exceptions, but mostly regarding if the child has suffered some type of injury. This may change or alter the treatment needed to stop any additional pain. But for the most part, your child should be able to move about with little to no pain or discomfort once the recommended treatment has been applied.
Changing situations such as gaining weight or participating in activities that require additional running or movement may require additional arch support and even new footwear to compensate. Before your child tries out for a sport or activity that considerably increases their activity level, you may want to have them wear more rigid footwear to provide greater support.
Is it possible to Fix Flat Feet?
One of the common questions that people ask, or wonder, is whether or not you can fix flat feet. The short answer is that you cannot fix flat feet themselves any more than you can fit your height or the length and design of your fingers. However, you can get treatment if you are experiencing stiffness or actual pain in your feet, legs, or back as a result of having flat feet. Common treatments include:
Stretches and Exercises
These are often instructed to you by a primary care physician or a physiotherapist if the person with flat feet is referred to one. There are a variety of stretches, including heel cord stretching (stretching the achilles tendon to prevent the foot from rolling inward) and stretching the ligament in the arch of the foot by rolling a golf ball under your feet regularly.
These simply help the muscles and ligaments stretch and release as much tension (which causes pain) as possible. Let’s take a look at some exercises you can do to correct flat feet. Try to do these exercises at least 2-3 times a week. Ideally, you can integrate them into your daily routine and carry them out throughout the day.
Stretching the heel (30 seconds, 4 times)
- Stand on a wall, chair, or railing with your hands at the shoulder or eye level.
- Hold one leg forward and the other leg straight behind you and put both heels firmly into the ground.
- Bend your front leg while keeping your spine straight, and support yourself by pushing into the wall, feeling a stretch in your back leg and Achilles tendon.
Rolling tennis or golf balls (3 min on each foot)
- Sit in a chair with a game of tennis or golf under your right foot.
- Keep your spine straight as you roll the ball under your foot
- Concentrating on the arch of the foot.
Raise the arch of the foot (3 sets of 10 reps)
- Stand up and make sure that your toes stay in contact with the ground all the time
- Roll your weight onto your feet at the outer edges while lifting your arch as far as possible.
- Then let your feet go down again. You will train the muscles that help raise and arch your foot arch.
Calf lifting exercise (3 sets of 15 reps)
- Lift your heels as high as possible while standing.
- Hold your top position for five seconds, and then lower yourself back to the floor.
- Do two to three sets of ten to fifteen repetitions, and hold the top position and pulse up and down for 30 seconds.
Arch lifting on stairs (3 sets of 15 reps)
- Stand on steps with your left foot one step higher than with your right foot and use your left foot to balance while lowering your right foot so that your heel hangs lower than the step.
- Raise the right heel as high as possible, focusing on strengthening the arch of the foot.
- Turn your bulge inward while your knee and calf turn slightly to the side, making your bulge higher and lower your back to the starting position.
Towel curls exercise (3 sets of 15 reps)
- Start with sitting on a chair with a towel underneath your feet, roll your heels into the floor while rolling your toes to crumple the towel.
- Press your toes into your foot and hold it for some seconds and release it.
- Make sure that the ball is of your foot remains pressed into the floor or the towel. Make sure that the arch of the foot is strengthened.
Raise the toes (10 reps on each foot)
- Perform this exercise in standing yoga postures like tree position, standing forward bend, or standing split.
- While standing, push your right big toe into the floor and lift the other four toes, and push your four toes into the floor and lift your big toe.
- Make each movement five to ten times and hold each uplift for five seconds.
Ankle or Foot Braces
In some cases, these kinds of stretches can create inflammation in the ankle. With any kind of treatment, you might find comfort in an ankle or a foot brace. These keep the foot in the right position and wearing the braces will help keep swelling (which can create future discomfort) down until the foot adjusts to the stretching and exercises that you are doing.
Rest and Strength Building as well as Weight Loss
Depending on the cause of the flat foot, you may find that resting your foot is going to be the best therapy. This is especially so if you are dealing with obesity as the cause or an overuse injury. Rest and use heat and cold therapy as recommended and your foot will be able to heal itself as much as possible.
Importance of Right Shoes for Flat Feet
One of the best options for treatment is going to be the option of purchasing the best flat feet shoes. These can be orthotics and are designed specifically for your feet. They are going to work with your foot’s needs by cushioning it in all of the right places and making sure that you have support to minimize any symptoms that you are feeling.
When choosing the best shoes for flat feet for you, focus on the shoes that will help your gait.
- If you have mild overpronation, go for stability shoes
- If you have excessive overpronation, go for motion control shoes
- To support your fallen arch, find a shoe with midsole that does not bend easily
- Use shoes that has removable insoles so you can replace them with over the counter or prescribed orthotics.
Tip: Motion control shoes and stability shoes with firm midsoles are the best shoes for flat feet due to their ability to reduce pronation. Avoid shoes with excessive cushion and lack of support because they tend to pronate.
Flat Feet Inserts
Often orthotic shoes are made wide to the foot to make sure that they can accommodate flat feet inserts as well. These offer further support and comfort perks that, as the name suggests, you simply insert into whatever pair of shoes that you want to wear. This can be helpful for those that wear many different kinds of shoes and don’t have the capacity to make a single pair of specially created shoes to suit all of their needs.
The Bottom Line
Simply put, having flat feet doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to take on physiotherapy or specially designed shoes. Many people live their entire lives with flat feet and don’t experience any kind of pain or severe discomfort as a result. However, you do have treatment options available to you in the case that you need some help. As well, you may find that relying on the right helpful accessories such as flat feet inserts can actually provide you with added comfort and relief from everyday tension if you are someone who is living with flat feet.
Flat feet are a common issue in children and adults around the world. If you are some of them and want some support — literally — in keeping your feet as healthy and happy as can be, you’ll find flat feet inserts and flat feet shoes are going to be the best daily wear options that do not interrupt your life and give you the cushioning that you want for healthy, strong feet both short- and long-term. The best part is, they are widely available in fashionable styles, so there’s no downside!