There's an easy way to tell if you have flat feet
. Simply wet your feet, then stand on a flat, dry surface that
will leave an imprint of your foot. A normal footprint has a wide band connecting the ball of the foot to the heel, with an indentation on the inner side of the foot. A foot with a high arch has a
large indentation and a very narrow connecting band. Flat feet leave a nearly complete imprint, with almost no inward curve where the arch should be. Most people have "flexible flatfoot" as children;
an arch is visible when the child rises up on the toes, but not when the child is standing. As you age, the tendons that attach to the bones of the foot grow stronger and tighten, forming the arch.
But if injury or illness damages the tendons, the arch can "fall," creating a flatfoot
. In many adults, a low arch
or a flatfoot is painless and causes no problems. However, a painful flatfoot can be a sign of a congenital abnormality or an injury to the muscles and tendons of the foot. Flat feet can even
contribute to low back pain.
Adult flatfoot typically occurs very gradually. If often develops in an obese person who already has somewhat flat feet. As the person ages, the tendons and ligaments that support the foot begin to
lose their strength and elasticity.
At first you may notice pain and swelling along the medial (big toe) side of the foot. This is where the posterior tibialis tendon travels from the back of the leg under the medial ankle bone to the
foot. As the condition gets worse, tendon failure occurs and the pain gets worse. Some patients experience pain along the lateral (outside) edge of the foot, too. You may find that your feet hurt at
the end of the day or after long periods of standing. Some people with this condition have trouble rising up on their toes. They may be unable to participate fully in sports or other recreational
First, both feet should be examined with the patient standing and the entire lower extremity visible. The foot should be inspected from above as well as from behind the patient, as valgus angulation
of the hindfoot is best appreciated when the foot is viewed from behind. Johnson described the so-called more-toes sign: with more advanced deformity and abduction of the forefoot, more of the
lateral toes become visible when the foot is viewed from behind. The single-limb heel-rise test is an excellent determinant of the function of the posterior tibial tendon. The patient is asked to
attempt to rise onto the ball of one foot while the other foot is suspended off the floor. Under normal circumstances, the posterior tibial muscle, which inverts and stabilizes the hindfoot, is
activated as the patient begins to rise onto the forefoot. The gastrocnemius-soleus muscle group then elevates the calcaneus, and the heel-rise is accomplished. With dysfunction of the posterior
tibial tendon, however, inversion of the heel is weak, and either the heel remains in valgus or the patient is unable to rise onto the forefoot. If the patient can do a single-limb heel-rise, the
limb may be stressed further by asking the patient to perform this maneuver repetitively.
Non surgical Treatment
The adult acquired flatfoot is best treated early. Accurate assessment by your doctor will determine which treatment is suitable for you. Reduce your level of activity and follow the RICE regime. R -
rest as often as you are able. Refrain from activity that will worsen your condition, such as sports and walking. I - ice, apply to the affected area, ensure you protect the area from frostbite by
applying a towel over the foot before using the ice pack. C - compression, a Tubigrip or elasticated support bandage may be
applied to relieve symptoms and ease pain and discomfort. E - elevate the affected foot to reduce painful swelling. You will be prescribed pain relief in the form of non-steroidal antiinflammatory
medications (if you do not suffer with allergies or are asthmatic). Immobilisation of your affected foot - this will involve you having a below the knee cast for four to eight weeks. In certain
circumstances it is possible for you to have a removable boot instead of a cast. A member of the foot and ankle team will advise as to whether this option is suitable for you. Footwear is important -
it is advisable to wear flat sturdy lace-up shoes, for example, trainers or boots. This will not only support your foot, but will also accommodate orthoses (shoe inserts).
Surgical treatment should be considered when all other conservative treatment has failed. Surgery options for flatfoot reconstruction depend on the severity of the flatfoot. Surgery for a flexible
flatfoot deformity (flatfoot without arthritis to the foot joints) involves advancing the posterior tibial tendon under the arch to provide more support and decrease elongation of the tendon as well
as addressing the hindfoot eversion with a osteotomy to the calcaneus (surgical cut in the heel bone). Additionally, the Achilles tendon may need to be lengthened because of the compensatory
contracture of the Achilles tendon with flatfoot deformity. Flatfoot deformity with arthritic changes to the foot is considered a rigid flatfoot. Correction of a rigid flatfoot deformity usually
involves surgical fusion of the hindfoot joints. This is a reconstructive procedure which allows the surgeon to re-position the foot into a normal position. Although the procedure should be
considered for advanced PTTD, it has many complications and should be discussed at length with your doctor.