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 appear for a number of reasons. Arches never developed properly. Damage to the tendons that support the arch. Damage or inflammation of the posterior tibial tendon which runs from your lower leg, down and across your ankle, and connects to the middle of the arch. Trauma involving broken bones in the foot. Rheumatoid arthritis. Aging, pregnancy, nerve damage, obesity or even diabetes.
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.
Many medical professionals can diagnose a flat foot by examining the patient standing or just looking at them. On going up onto tip toe the deformity will correct when this is a flexible flat foot in a child with lax joints. Such correction is not seen in the adult with a rigid flat foot. An easy and traditional home diagnosis is the "wet footprint" test, performed by wetting the feet in water and then standing on a smooth, level surface such as smooth concrete or thin cardboard or heavy paper. Usually, the more the sole of the foot that makes contact (leaves a footprint), the flatter the foot. In more extreme cases, known as a kinked flatfoot, the entire inner edge of the footprint may actually bulge outward, where in a normal to high arch this part of the sole of the foot does not make contact with the ground at all.
Non Surgical Treatment
If you have flat feet (pes planus) it does not mean you will have problems or pain. Flat feet are a common condition. Flat feet are defined as an abnormal lowering of the medial longitudinal arch. There is often a hereditary component to the development of flat feet. Flat feet are more common in certain ethnic groups. Flat feet usually occurs equally in both feet and become apparent at an early age. Flat feet can initially be asymptomatic, but can become progressively symptomatic with age. Some flat feet never become bothersome. The medial arch is unstable in flexible flatfoot. The foot can bend as the heel lifts of the ground. This creates stress on the surrounding soft-tissues and joints creating tired, sore arches. The instability of the foot can create abnormal stress that flows up the leg which results in pain in the legs, knees, hips and lower back. Patients with flat feet often present to the chiropodist/podiatrist with problems that are indirectly caused by their foot structure.
Rarely does the physician use surgery to correct a foot that is congenitally flat, which typically does not cause pain. If the patient has a fallen arch that is painful, though, the foot and ankle physicians at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush may perform surgery to reconstruct the tendon and "lift up" the fallen arch. This requires a combination of tendon re-routing procedures, ligament repairs, and bone cutting or fusion procedures.
Well-fitted shoes with good arch support may help prevent flat feet. Maintaining a healthy weight may also lower wear and tear on the arches.
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.