flat feet

All you should know about Flat Feet and how Physiotherapy can help

Having flat feet is a condition in which the arches of the feet have collapsed, are very low, or have not developed. This can cause a variety of problems, including pain in the feet, ankles, knees, hips, and lower back. This condition can create problems with walking, running, and standing for a longer period of time.

What are flat feet?

A person with flat feet, also known as flatfoot, has no visible arch in the foot when they stand. When you stand, the pads of the feet press into the ground and you can’t see any arch. Sometimes the arch appears when you lift the foot.

We are born without arches, they typically form at the age of 6. In two out of 10 children, it happens that the arches don’t develop. In some cases, the arches collapsed in adulthood which is called fallen arches.

Flat feet are generally not a problem for most people. In cases where flat feet cause pain or other problems, there are treatments that can help.

Flat foot Vectors & Illustrations for Free Download | Freepik

What are the different types of flat feet?

There are four types of flat feet which are caused in different ways.

  1. The most common type is flexible flat feet in which you can see the arches in the feet when you aren’t standing. When you put weight on the feet, which means standing, the arches disappear. This condition starts during childhood or in the teenage years and gets gradually worse with age. Tendons and ligaments in the arches of the feet can stretch, tear, and swell. This condition affects both feet.
  2. The type in which a person has no arches at all neither while sitting nor standing is called rigid flat feet. This type often develops during the teenage years, gradually gets worse, and may cause pain. Flexing the feet up and down, or side-to-side movements can be difficult. This condition may affect one or both feet.
  3. A fallen arch is the type of flat foot that unexpectedly collapses or drops in adulthood, commonly caused by inflammation or a tear in the leg tendon that supports the arch. The fallen arch causes the foot to turn outward and can be painful. This condition can affect only one foot.
  4. The last type of flat foot is called vertical talus and is caused by a birth defect (congenital disability) that prevents the arches from forming. In this condition, the talus bone in the ankle is in the wrong position. It’s also known as rocker-bottom foot because the bottom of the foot resembles the bottom of a rocking chair.

What causes flat feet?

Although the most common cause is genetic, there are certain factors that can increase the risk of developing flat feet such as

  • Achilles tendon injuries
  • Broken bones
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Diabetes
  • Down syndrome
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Aging (more prone to falls or physical injuries)
  • Pregnancy

Can I test myself for flat feet?

There is a very simple way to test yourself for flat feet. Simply get your feet wet, stand on a flat surface that will show your footprints easily. If your prints show the complete imprints of the bottom of your feet, you most likely have flat feet.

The Importance of Proper Running Shoe Selection - Chester County Hospital |  Penn Medicine

What are the symptoms of flat feet?

While there are many people with flat feet without any pain or problems, certain types of flat feet can lead to the following symptoms:

  • Leg cramps
  • Muscle pain in the foot or leg
  • Pain in the arch, ankle, heel, or outside of the foot
  • Pain when walking or changes in how you walk (gait)
  • Weakness, numbness, and stiffness in the foot
  • Foot pointing inwards can lead to injuries and shoes wearing out sooner than expected
  • Toe drift, means the front part of the foot and toes point outward
flat feet physiotherapy

How can Physiotherapy help with flat feet?

Physiotherapy can be very effective in relieving pain and stiffness caused by flat feet. A physiotherapist can assess your condition and develop a personalized treatment plan that may include:

  • Ice or Heat Therapy: to provide initial pain relief caused by flat feet, heat or ice may be used.
  • Exercise: Physiotherapists can teach you exercises to strengthen the muscles that support the feet and ankles, to regain mobility of the foot as well as foot and ankle control
  • Manual therapy: Physiotherapists may use manual therapy techniques, such as massage and stretching, to relieve pain and improve the range of motion in the feet and ankles.
  • Orthotics: Physiotherapists can also recommend orthotics, which are custom-made shoe inserts that can help support the arches of the feet and improve alignment.
  • Lifestyle changes: Physiotherapists may advise you to make certain changes in your lifestyle like a diet and exercise program to manage your weight and reduce the pressure on your feet. They may also recommend to avoid standing or walking for a long time.

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