A normal foot has a slight rise in the middle when looked at from the side. This is called the arch, and it’s created by several tendons in your foot and lower leg.
Flat feet — sometimes called fallen arches — is a common foot condition, one where there’s little to no arch. While many people with flat feet have no symptoms, people with flat feet can experience pain, fatigue, and swelling in the sole, as well as lower leg pain. Flat feet can be an inherited condition, or it may be acquired at some point during your life.
At Intermountain Foot & Ankle Associates, podiatrist Dr. Kerry E. Berg and our team regularly diagnose and treat flat feet in our Colorado Springs office. While there are medical treatments to help alleviate the symptoms and create an arch, there are a number of things you can do yourself to prevent your flat feet from getting worse.
Children may be born with flat feet but grow out of them as their feet continue to develop.
Acquired flat feet in adults can come from a number of problems. The most common cause is damage to or inflammation of the posterior tibial tendon (PTT), which extends from your lower leg to your ankle to the middle of the arch. Other common causes include:
Obesity and pregnancy increase your risk for acquiring fallen arches because of the weight constantly pressing on your feet. Aging, scoliosis, unequal leg lengths, and diabetes are additional risk factors.
Flat feet lead to a number of complications if not treated:
Treatment can relieve the symptoms and strengthen the arch tendons.
If you have flat feet, there are a number of things you can do to support the arch and prevent it from falling farther.
High-heeled or narrow-toed shoes can cause flat feet by themselves, or worsen your condition if you already have it. Choose footwear that provides arch support, or use arched shoe inserts.
Being overweight not only puts extra strain on your feet, it also stresses the posterior tibial tendon. By losing weight, you decrease your risk for fallen arches.
And shedding the pounds, along with eating well and exercising regularly, lowers your risk for type 2 diabetes, which worsens flat feet and causes other severe foot complications, such as peripheral neuropathy and foot ulcers.
There are targeted exercises for the arch tendons, and they’re essentially what runners and other athletes use as warmups. You can also do yoga, which will help you stretch your whole body, including your calves and feet.
A physical therapist can create a low-impact exercise program for you to strengthen your tendons and foot muscles without the risk of tissue tears or other injuries.
Over-the-counter orthotics are one-size-suits-nobody. Dr. Berg can make a digital impression of your feet, which she sends to a lab that custom-designs and manufactures inserts designed to correct the alignment of your feet and support your arches.
If your flat feet cause pain or inflammation, you may be able to control it with OTC nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen. You can also apply ice packs for up to 20 minutes at a time, three or four times a day.
If you’ve got flat feet, don’t wait until you’ve got symptoms to look for treatment; otherwise, you may require a brace to stabilize the tendon, or even surgery to repair damaged tissues. Instead, contact Intermountain Foot & Ankle Associates to schedule a consultation with Dr. Berg. Give the office a call at 719-873-8973, or book online with us today.