In a nutshell, being diagnosed with having a flat foot should not cause undue concern, however, living with the pain that can be associated with the condition is altogether unnecessary due to its treatability.
What are flat feet?
Flat feet is also commonly termed “splay foot” and “fallen arches’. The term “flat feet” can be interpreted in two different ways. On one hand the foot collapses under the body weight and appears to have a very low arch or no arch at all. The shape of the foot makes it look as though the foot is over-pronating (in rolling). This condition is relatively rare and gives rise to no symptoms.
However where over-pronation occurs, the foot rolls in and rotates so that the arch seems to disappear and the foot appears to be flat on the ground upon weight bearing. In this case the foot does not function efficiently, which may give rise to painful feet.
What causes flat feet?
Over-pronation is the main culprit (flattening of the arch). During over-pronation the inner side of the foot is twisted against the ground and this can cause inflammation to the ligaments that run under the sole of the foot (Plantar Fasciitis). Pain can be located along the stretch of ligaments between the heel bone and the head of the metatarsals in the fore foot. Pain can also be located on the inner side of the heel bone and at times right under heel bone where a heel spur might developed.
We are not made to walk on hard surfaces all day as they do not support the foot’s structure appropriately, however, in this day and age this can hardly be avoided. To gain contact with the ground, the foot usually pronates excessively to enable toe-off to occur. Look at shoes for evidence of excessive wear/squashing of mid sole along the inside border of the heel and midfoot.
It is estimated that up to 85% of the population suffer from pronation and related conditions. Excess pronation is not an isolated condition – it contributes to causing mal-tracking and mal-alignment of the knee joints and hips, causing over compensation of the lower back muscles, so it’s more than just painful feet!
What can be done about it?
Ultimately, over-pronation can be treated via the use of an arch support – available as individual wedges to be placed under the arch such as the Podopro Flat Foot Wedge, to the full insole incorporting an arch support, an example being the Spenco RX range. These insoles will prevent some pronation and will provide comfort. However, long term, custom made orthotics will correct the over-pronation of the foot and as such will eliminate the functional flat foot condition.
Footwear should also be examined to ensure there is a proper fit. Footwear with a firm heel counter is often recommended for extra support and stability. As we head towards summer, consider a sandal with build in support due to the difficulty of wearing an orthotic device in such footwear – an excellent choice being the Orthaheel Wave Sandal. Improper fitting footwear can lead to additional foot problems.
So if you’re finding your feet tire easily – as the muscles of both feet and legs work harder in order to compensate for the imbalance caused by the poor biomechanics – and you are experiencing pain other than that directly associated with the foot, it’s worth considering what a simple orthotic device can do for you in helping to comfort and correct the foot function and making for pain free step!