They make it possible for us to walk, run, and stand. With over two dozen bones, your feet are really a masterpiece of engineering. But sometimes even the best made things have flaws. One common problem is to have flatfeet, or fallen arches.
Flat feet in adults can arise from a variety of causes. Here are the most common. An abnormality that is present from birth, stretched or torn tendons, damage or inflammation of the posterior tibial tendon (PTT), which connects from your lower leg, along your ankle, to the middle of the arch, broken or dislocated bones. Some health conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, Nerve problems. Other factors that can increase your risk include obesity, diabetes, ageing and Pregnancy.
The majority of children and adults with flexible flatfeet never have symptoms. However, their toes may tend to point outward as they walk, a condition called out-toeing. A person who develops symptoms usually complains of tired, aching feet, especially after prolonged standing or walking. Symptoms of rigid flatfoot vary depending on the cause of the foot problem. Congenital vertical talus. The foot of a newborn with congenital vertical talus typically has a convex rocker-bottom shape. This is sometimes combined with an actual fold in the middle of the foot. The rare person who is diagnosed at an older age often has a "peg-leg" gait, poor balance and heavy calluses on the soles where the arch would normally be. If a child with congenital vertical talus has a genetic disorder, additional symptoms often are seen in other parts of the body. Tarsal coalition. Many people have no symptoms, and the condition is discovered only by chance when an X-ray of the foot is obtained for some other problem. When symptoms occur, there is usually foot pain that begins at the outside rear of the foot. The pain tends to spread upward to the outer ankle and to the outside portion of the lower leg. Symptoms usually start during a child's teenage years and are aggravated by playing sports or walking on uneven ground. In some cases, the condition is discovered when a child is evaluated for unusually frequent ankle sprains. Lateral subtalar dislocation. Because this often is caused by a traumatic, high-impact injury, the foot may be significantly swollen and deformed. There also may be an open wound with bruising and bleeding.
If your child has flatfeet, his or her doctor will ask about any family history of flatfeet or inherited foot problems. In a person of any age, the doctor will ask about occupational and recreational activities, previous foot trauma or foot surgery and the type of shoes worn. The doctor will examine your shoes to check for signs of excessive wear. Worn shoes often provide valuable clues to gait problems and poor bone alignment. The doctor will ask you to walk barefoot to evaluate the arches of the feet, to check for out-toeing and to look for other signs of poor foot mechanics. The doctor will examine your feet for foot flexibility and range of motion and feel for any tenderness or bony abnormalities. Depending on the results of this physical examination, foot X-rays may be recommended. X-rays are always performed in a young child with rigid flatfeet and in an adult with acquired flatfeet due to trauma.
Non Surgical Treatment
Get shoes made for walking or running. One way to support your arch is to wear good-quality running or walking shoes, says Dr. Gastwirth. "These shoes generally provide good support to the foot." Add support. The top-of-the-line arch support is an orthotic insole, which may cost $900 or more and must be custom-made. "But many people with sore arches will get relief with over-the-counter arch supports for about $10," suggests Judith Smith, M.D., assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. "The thing to remember about arch supports is that your shoe must have enough depth to accommodate them. Otherwise, you'll get a lot of rubbing on the top of your foot, or your heel will come out of the shoe." Most mens shoes are deep enough to accommodate the insoles; women should take their shoes with them to the drugstore when buying the insoles to ensure a good fit. If your heels are high, keep them wide. High heels may be your Achilles' heel--especially if you wear them constantly. "Flatter shoes are no doubt better," says Dr. Sanfilippo. Flat heels help prevent fallen arches and are kinder to your feet if fallen arches have already occurred. "If you must wear high heels, choose styles with a wide heel. Stay away from stiletto heels."
Generally one of the following procedures is used to surgically repair a flat foot or fallen arch. Arthrodesis. One or more of your bones in the foot or ankle are fused together. Osteotomy. Correcting alignment by cutting and reshaping a bone. Excision. Removing a bone or a bone spur. Synovectomy. Cleaning the sheath that covers the tendon. Tendon transfer. Using a piece of one tendon to lengthen or replace another. Arthroereisis. placing a small device in the subtalar joint to limit motion. For most people, treatment is successful, regardless of the cause, although the cause does does play a major role in determining your prognosis. Some causes do not need treatment, while others require a surgical fix.
Patients may go home the day of surgery or they may require an overnight hospital stay. The leg will be placed in a splint or cast and should be kept elevated for the first two weeks. At that point, sutures are removed. A new cast or a removable boot is then placed. It is important that patients do not put any weight on the corrected foot for six to eight weeks following the operation. Patients may begin bearing weight at eight weeks and usually progress to full weightbearing by 10 to 12 weeks. For some patients, weightbearing requires additional time. After 12 weeks, patients commonly can transition to wearing a shoe. Inserts and ankle braces are often used. Physical therapy may be recommended. There are complications that relate to surgery in general. These include the risks associated with anesthesia, infection, damage to nerves and blood vessels, and bleeding or blood clots. Complications following flatfoot surgery may include wound breakdown or nonunion (incomplete healing of the bones). These complications often can be prevented with proper wound care and rehabilitation. Occasionally, patients may notice some discomfort due to prominent hardware. Removal of hardware can be done at a later time if this is an issue. The overall complication rates for flatfoot surgery are low.