All You Need to Know About Flat Feet: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

by Princeton Orthopaedic Associates

All You Need to Know About Flat Feet: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

by Princeton Orthopaedic Associates

Everyone’s feet are not the same. Some people are born with a higher risk of developing flat feet or some other foot abnormalities. However, it’s not something to be scared of. Having flat feet does not necessarily mean you will end up with painful arthritis in your knees or hips. In fact, if you have flat feet, you can even view it as an advantage because it might help you become a better runner or even an athlete! A person with flat feet has an arch that is less noticeable than usual when viewed from above. When standing and walking, this may lead to greater stress on the knee joint than someone who has arches that are more pronounced. If your child has flat feet, consult your doctor for advice on the best activities for them and their specific condition so they can remain healthy and active.

Causes of Flat Feet

There are many ways people end up with flat feet. There are various traumas that can occur which affect the foot and ankle leading to a flattening of the arch. Mostly, though, people who have flat feet are born with that condition. It’s genetic. One of the most common reasons is a lack of arch support when the foot is growing inside the womb. Due to this, the bones of the foot are not aligned correctly, and the arch is not developed or not properly developed. Another common reason for flat feet is an abnormal leg length. This can happen as a result of muscle imbalances that occur during one’s lifetime. Due to certain muscles being weaker than others, the legs can be out of alignment, which affects the way the foot strikes the ground. Finally, having flat feet can be due to a foot deformity that happened during childhood. If a child is putting a lot of pressure on their feet and toes, they can cause soft tissue misalignment. Over time, that misalignment can become permanent.

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What Are the Symptoms of Flat Feet?

Generally, people with flat feet don’t notice pain in their feet, and they lead a normal, active lifestyle. But when they start experiencing pain in their knees or hips, the problem is obviously there. If the affected person is a child or a teenager, the doctor would monitor the situation very closely. 

The most common symptoms of having flat feet are:

  • Pain in the shins or the calves - This is one of the most common symptoms of flat feet; 
  • Foot pain or pain in the toes - This can happen when a person walks a lot or when they have a long day at work. It can also indicate a more serious problem such as nerve damage; 
  • Plantar Fasciitis - This is a condition that affects the soles of the feet. It is caused by the rupture of the plantar fascia, the ligament that supports the arch of the foot.

How Is a Diagnosis Made?

Your doctor will take a look at your foot structure and decide whether you have flat feet or not. If you are suffering from foot pain, he or she might order X-rays. However, the diagnosis can be tricky if you only have one or two symptoms from the above list and your feet have a normal appearance. In such a case, your doctor might refer you to a podiatrist for a thorough examination. The podiatrist will measure your foot structure, take into account your other symptoms, and examine the pressure distribution between your foot and the floor when you walk.

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Treatment Options for Flat Feet

If you have flat feet and they don’t cause you any discomfort or pain, there’s no reason to treat them. But if they do, there are a few options you can turn to. 

  • Orthotics - These are devices that are inserted in the shoe to provide more support to the foot. A podiatrist can prescribe one that is specially designed for your foot type to improve your posture and help your arches to pronate better. 
  • Physiotherapy - Depending on the level of discomfort you are experiencing, your doctor might refer you to a physiotherapist for treatment. They can help you with stretching or strengthening exercises, or they can even recommend a suitable orthotic if your feet are particularly sensitive.
  • Surgery - It is rare for a doctor to suggest surgery for flat feet since the condition does not cause any serious health complications. However, if the pain is too great, surgery might be the only solution.

Final Words

Having flat feet doesn’t mean you can’t lead a healthy and active lifestyle. But you should keep in mind that, unlike people with high arches, you are more prone to various foot and ankle injuries, such as plantar fasciitis. Your doctor will recommend which exercises are best for you so you can strengthen your muscles and improve your posture. If you follow their advice, you will soon be enjoying the benefits of an active lifestyle without pain!

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