It’s helpful to have a support system. Our feet naturally have one built-in, but it doesn’t always perform as intended.
The arches that run along the insides of our feet help us evenly distribute our weight, as well as provide some propulsion when we move or jump.
We are not born with arches (babies don’t really run around, after all), but they will begin to develop as we grow. Sometimes, however, this doesn’t happen. In other cases, we’ll have our arches into adulthood, but an injury or simply time will cause our arches to weaken and flatten out.
Having flatfoot does not always result in pain or other problems, but too many people are living with the pain and not realizing what is wrong. The sooner that the potential problems of flatfoot are addressed, the better acting and more successful steps to treat it tend to be.
Flat feet or fallen arches are worth keeping an eye on at any point in life. We will look closer at childhood and adult flatfoot, as well as common treatments for each.
Flat Feet in Children
As we noted, arches don’t start to develop until a child begins to grow. Even then, parents tend to notice that their child’s arches may seem to “vanish” when they stand or rise onto their toes and “reappear” as soon as they rest.
This is known as “flexible flatfoot” and can be perfectly harmless. However, it’s still worth keeping a professional eye on to ensure the arches develop. If they do not, a flexible case of flatfoot can become rigid, making it harder to address.
While we recommend contacting us for any case of flexible flatfoot, parents should be especially mindful if:
- Arches have not developed by age 4.
- Their child does not express an interest or willingness to run (potentially due to pain).
- Their child complains of persistent pain in the knees or hips (a potential consequence of imbalance).
Flat Feet in Adults
Having flatfoot in adulthood may be the result of arches never developing properly in childhood. It can also be a case that the arches did develop, but the support structure that surrounds it has weakened due to time or other conditions.
Flat feet are more common in adults who:
- Are overweight.
- Have experienced injuries to their feet and ankles, such as severe sprains or fractures.
- Have rheumatoid arthritis.
- Have diabetes.
Similar to cases in children, some cases of adult flatfoot do not result in any symptoms. Other times, however, it can result in pain within the area of the heel or arch that usually worsens during or after activity. Sometimes, swelling can also happen around the inside of the ankle.
What Can Be Done About Flatfoot?
If flatfoot is not causing any pain, discomfort, or other issues, the best treatment is often orthotics and supportive shoes. While it is still important to monitor flexible flatfoot in young children as they grow, action is usually not taken until there is reason to believe there may be a problem.
When there is a problem, conservative treatments will always be recommended first. These may include changes in footwear, exercises to strengthen muscles and tendons within the feet, or the use of custom-made orthotics to redistribute weight across the feet.
If conservative treatments don’t have the desired effect, surgical options might then be discussed.
Among these options is HyProCure, a short, outpatient procedure. These special surgical stents can be inserted into the natural spaces between the bones of the foot to aid in realignment. Recovery from a procedure takes a few weeks, but results have been very positive. If ignored too long more extensive surgery will be required.
No matter the course of treatment, acting sooner is always preferred to holding out for years with pain. Dr. Shields and the staff at Total Foot & Ankle are here to help you get to the root of flatfoot problems and get you on the road to comfort!
Call us at (405) 947-8041 for our Oklahoma City office or (580) 237-3338 for our Enid office. We’ll be happy to schedule an appointment with you!