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Addressing Fallen Arches

July 1, 2017
Overview

Flat Feet

Pes planus is a condition in which the arch or instep of the foot collapses and comes in contact with the ground. In some individuals, this arch never develops while they are growing. Alternative names include pes planovalgus, flat feet, fallen arches, pronation of the feet.

Causes

There are many reasons why flat feet develop. Here?s a look at some of the most common causes. Genetics, weak arches, injury, arthritis, diabetes, age, wear and tear on feet, tibialis posterior (ruptured tendon). Nervous system or muscle diseases such as cerebral palsy. Weakness and tightness of other muscles and tendons higher up in the lower extremity. The way our arches form depends on several factors. Our feet are complex structures that comprise twenty-six bones, thirty-three joints, and more than 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments each. Each foot forms two arches. The arch that runs from the heel to the toe is known as the longitudinal arch, while the one that runs the width is known as the transverse arch. Ligaments (fibrous tissues) give our arches their shape and hold our bones together. The plantar fascia (the long, strong band of connective tissue that runs along the sole of your foot) and muscles add secondary support. There are also foot pads that absorb impact and assist with weight-bearing functions. How these things intertwine and work together determines the formation of our arches. A structural abnormality or injury to one of these components can result in flatfoot.

Symptoms

A symptom is something the patient feels and reports, while a sign is something other people, including the doctor may detect. An example of a symptom may be pain in the ankle, while a sign may be a swelling. Symptoms may vary and generally depend on the severity of the condition. Some have an uneven distribution of bodyweight and find that the heel of their shoes wears out more rapidly and more on one side than the other. The most common signs or symptoms of flat feet are pain in the ankle (inner side), there may also be swelling of the foot in general, swelling in the arch of the foot, the calf, knee, the hip, the back, the general lower leg area. People with flat feet may also experience stiffness in one or both feet. One or both feet may be flat on the ground (either no arch, or very slight arch). Shoes may wear unevenly.

Diagnosis

Determining whether you have fallen arches may be as easy as looking at the shape of the middle bottom of your foot. Is there any kind of arch there? If you cannot find any kind of arch, you may have a flat foot. There are, however, other ways to decide in case you're still not sure. Another way to figure out if you have flat feet is to look at a few pairs of your shoes. Where do you see the most wear on the heels? If you notice significant wear in the heel and the ball of the foot extending to the big toe, this means you are overpronating. Overpronators roll their feet too far inward and commonly have fallen arches. To figure out if you have flat feet, you can also do an easy test. Get the bottoms of your feet wet and then step on to a piece of paper carefully. Step off the paper and take a look at the print your foot made. If your print looks like the entire bottom of a foot, your feet are flat. People with an arch will be missing part of the foot on their print since the arch is elevated off of the paper. Regular visits to your podiatrist are highly recommended.

fallen arches insoles

Non Surgical Treatment

Switch activities for a little while. If you?re a super athlete, you don?t want to hear that you need to take a break, but there?s no way around it. You need to lay off the high impact sports like basketball, tennis and running. Don?t panic-there?s no shortage of alternatives. Find a high school track that?s open to the public and try going for a run. Many athletic programs use spongy synthetic materials to pave tracks instead of concrete. This is much easier on all the joints and tendons, not only in your feet but your legs and ankles. You can also try running on dirt trails or stable grassy areas. Take up swimming for a little while. This is actually an ideal activity for your arches. The buoyancy of water takes weight off our feet, but still allows for aerobic activity. Many gyms and activity centers also offer various water sport classes. In no time flat, you?ll be on your way to healthier feet.

Surgical Treatment

Acquired Flat Foot

Since there are many different causes of flatfoot, the types of flatfoot reconstruction surgery are best categorized by the conditions. Posterior tibial tendon dysfunction. In this condition, the tendon connecting the calf muscle to the inner foot is torn or inflamed. Once the tendon is damaged it no longer can serve its main function of supporting the arch of the foot. Flatfoot is the main result of this type of condition and can be treated by the following flatfoot reconstruction surgeries. Lengthening of the Achilles tendon. Otherwise known as gastrocnemius recession, this procedure is used to lengthen the calf muscles in the leg. This surgery treats flatfoot and prevents it from returning in the future. This procedure is often combined with other surgeries to correct posterior tibial tendon dysfunction. Cleaning the tendon. Also known as tenosynovectomy, this procedure is used in the earlier and less severe stages of posterior tibial tendon dysfunction. It is performed before the arch collapses and while the tendon is only mildly affected. The inflamed tissue is cleaned away and removed from the remaining healthy tendon. Tendon transfer. This procedure is done to correct flatfoot and reform the lost arch in the foot. During the procedure, the diseased tendon is removed and replaced by tendon from another area of the foot. If the tendon is only partially damaged, the inflamed part is cleaned and removed then attached to a new tendon. Cutting and shifting bones. Also called an osteotomy, this procedure consists of cutting and reconstructing bones in the foot to reconstruct the arch. The heel bone and the midfoot are most likely reshaped to achieve this desired result. A bone graft may be used to fuse the bones or to lengthen the outside of the foot. Temporary instrumentation such as screws and plates can also be used to hold the bones together while they heal.

Prevention

Flatfeet in children are often an inherited family trait, but it may be possible to prevent the condition in some cases. Recent research has shown that there are several social or cultural factors that can cause flatfeet. These factors include the following, obesity, overweight, unnecessary orthopedic treatments, wearing rigid shoes at a young age, In 1992, a study in India of 2300 children aged 4-13 demonstrated a significant difference in the rate of flatfeet among those who wore shoes regularly and those who did not. In this study, wearing inflexible, closed-toe shoes in early childhood was shown to have a negative effect on the normal development of arches. Children who were allowed to go barefoot or who wore light sandals and slippers had a much lower rate of flatfeet. In 1999, a study in Spain of 1181 children aged 4-13 revealed that the use of orthopedic shoes for treatment of flatfeet in children not only failed to correct the problem, but actually worsened the condition by preventing the normal flexing and arch development of bare or lightly protected feet. Finally, in 2006, a study of 835 children aged 3-6 showed significant differences in the rate of flatfeet based on weight, with normal-weight children having lower rates of flatfeet than children who were overweight or obese. Among adults, flatfeet due to injury, disease, or normal aging are not preventable. However, when flatfeet are related to lifestyle factors, such as physical activities, shoe selection, and weight gain, careful attention to these factors may prevent the development of flatfeet.

After Care

Time off work depends on the type of work as well as the surgical procedures performed. . A patient will be required to be non-weight bearing in a cast or splint and use crutches for four to twelve weeks. Usually a patient can return to work in one to two weeks if they are able to work while seated. If a person's job requires standing and walking, return to work may take several weeks. Complete recovery may take six months to a full year. Complications can occur as with all surgeries, but are minimized by strictly following your surgeon's post-operative instructions. The main complications include infection, bone that is slow to heal or does not heal, progression or reoccurrence of deformity, a stiff foot, and the need for further surgery. Many of the above complications can be avoided by only putting weight on the operative foot when allowed by your surgeon.

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