Having flat feet is a fairly common condition that can develop at any point during a person’s life. It occurs when the tendon that supports the arch collapses or is underdeveloped, causing most or all of the sole of the foot to come into contact with the ground while standing. Although it is usually painless, having flat feet can make standing, walking, or running for prolonged periods of time painful. In addition, it can cause improper function of the feet, leading to ankle, leg, knee, and back pain. The condition can occur in one or both feet. If you think you may have flatfoot, and you live in the NY area, Dr. Samandarov can perform an examination to determine your condition. He can also recommend the proper course of action to best treat your flatfeet.
Causes of Flatfoot
Flatfoot occurs when the posterior tibial tendon becomes inflamed or tears. This tendon runs along the sole of the foot, attaching the calf muscle to the bones of the foot. Improper function of this tendon causes the arches of the foot to collapse, resulting in flat feet. Some common conditions that can lead to flatfoot include:
1. Under development in Childhood
Although most infants and toddlers have flat feet, often times the posterior tibial tendon fails to develop properly as they mature, leading to flatfeet in adolescence and adulthood.
Like other tendons, the posterior tibial tendon can become damaged through everyday use. In older people, the simple wear and tear of time can cause the arch to collapse.
3. Rheumatoid Arthritis
This disease is an autoimmune disorder in which the body begins to mistakenly attack its own joints. It can weaken the tendon, causing the arches to fall.
Diabetes can lead to poor circulation in the feet and nerve damage. If a tendon injury occurs in a patient suffering from these conditions, the results can be more severe as the patient may not even feel the injury occur.
Other risk factors for developing flatfoot include obesity, sex, age, and level of activity. Women, people over 40, and athletes can be especially susceptible to developing this condition.
When to See a Doctor about Flatfoot
Flatfoot can be a relatively harmless condition, with some studies showing no increased risk for foot injury in people with this condition, including this Oxford Journal study. However, there are a number of symptoms that can develop as the result of flat feet and should prompt you to visit a doctor. These include:
- Pain in the foot, ankle, leg, knee, or lower back
- Pain that increases with activity, such as running
- Difficulty walking or standing for prolonged periods of time
In addition, patients suffering from other conditions – such as diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis – should see a doctor to avoid possible complications with their conditions. Of course, even otherwise-healthy people can suffer pain as a result of flat feet. Fortunately, there are a number of treatment options available to help correct and alleviate the effects of flatfoot.
If caught during childhood, flatfoot can be corrected by addressing the underlying causes before the bones fully develop. This can include separating a tarsal coalition (the fusing of two normally separated bones) and removal of an accessory navicular bone (an “extra” bone in the foot that most other people don’t have). The latter surgery can usually be performed at any age, since there is typically no change to the remaining bone structure. A shortened Achilles tendon can contribute to flatfoot. Many people, including children, can benefit from special stretching exercises that help elongate the Achilles tendon.
Shoe inserts, especially custom orthotics, can be used to alleviate the symptoms of flat feet. Proper footwear, such as shoes with good arch support, can also go a long way in reducing pain from flat feet. Over-the-counter pain medicines can also be helpful for alleviating pain. If you are obese, losing weight can also be very helpful for relieving the stress on your feet.
If rheumatoid arthritis has caused the foot joints to become deformed, ankle fusion surgery may be recommended. Tendon rupture can also be repaired surgically by grafting a healthy section of tendon onto the separated area. Surgery is generally reserved for more severe conditions associated with flatfoot. Dr. Samandarov can help recommend the best course of action to treat your flat feet during an examination at his Astoria or Forest Hills office.