Flat feet are a common condition. In infants and toddlers, the longitudinal arch is not developed and flat feet are normal. Most feet are flexible and an arch appears when the person stands on his or her toes. The arch develops in childhood, and by adulthood most people have developed normal arches. Most flat feet usually do not cause pain or other problems. Flat feet may be associated with pronation, a leaning inward of the ankle bones toward the center line. Shoes of children who pronate, when placed side by side, will lean toward each other (after they have been worn long enough for the foot position to remodel their shape). Foot pain, ankle pain or lower leg pain, especially in children, may be a result of flat feet and should be evaluated.
There are a number of possible causes for arch pain, but the most common are structural imbalances of the foot, such a pronated foot (rolls inward at the ankles). This is often not enough in isolation to cause the problem, but in combination with other factors arch pain may develop. These other factors are usually associated with overuse - running, walking, hard surfaces and/or OFAD (on feet all day), usually combined with inadequate or non-supportive footwear. The more common specific causes of arch pain can be plantar fasciitis (strain of the plantar fascia - a strong ligament that supports the arch), tarsal tunnel syndrome (a pinched nerve at the ankle that refers pain to the arch), foot strain from a pronated foot or flat foot, there can be osteoarthritis of the joints in the midfoot that can cause arch pain.
Common symptoms of plantar fasciitis include pain in the morning when you first get out of bed, pain and stiffness when you start to walk after sitting for a while, increasing arch or heel pain toward the end of the day, tired feet at the end of the day. Other causes of arch and heel pain include arthritis, infection, fractures and sprains, and even certain systemic diseases. Since there are multiple possible causes, you should see your podiatrist for a thorough evaluation if you are experiencing arch or heel pain that does not respond quickly to early treatment.
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
Stretch the fascia. Prop your toes up against a wall, keeping your arch and heel flat so the toes stretch. Hold for a count of 10. Repeat 10 times three or four times per day. Roll a frozen water bottle under the arch. Stretch first then roll out the arch for 10 minutes; you don?t want to stretch the tendon when it?s ice cold. Freeze a golf ball and massage the fascia. Roll the frozen golf ball under the foot, starting from the front and working your way back. Put good pressure on each spot-the medial, center and lateral positions-for 15 seconds before moving to the next area. Then, roll the ball back and forth over the entire foot. Foam roll all muscles on the body above the plantar. Even tight shoulders can cause the condition, as your arm swing can throw off proper hip alignment and footstrike. Bump your arch. Get a commercial insole with an arch bump to push on the plantar and keep it from flexing-it doesn?t matter if you?re an under or overpronator; the plantar needs to be supported and strengthened, Wear the support in all shoes, if possible.
The procedure involves cutting and shifting the bone, and then performing a tendon transfer. First, the surgeon performs a calcaneal osteotomy, cutting the heel bone and shifting it into the correct position. Second, the surgeon transfers the tendon. Reroute the flexor digitorum to replace the troublesome posterior tibial tendon. Finally, the surgeon typically performs one or more fine-tuning procedures that address the patient?s specific foot deformity. Often, the surgeon will lengthen the Achilles tendon because it is common for the mispositioned foot to cause the Achilles to tighten. Occasionally, to increase the arch, the surgeon performs another osteotomy of one of the bones of the midfoot. Occasionally, to point the foot in a straightforward direction, the surgeon performs another osteotomy of the outside portion of the calcaneus.
Point your toes. To ease foot pain and aching in your feet, lift one foot and roll it downward until the toes are pointed toward the ground. Then flex your foot. Repeat using the other foot. This exercise will help stretch out all the small muscles that are on the bottom of your feet, which can help relieve aching and improve blood circulation. Raise your heels. This exercise is good for relieving toe cramps caused by standing for hours in constricting shoes, says Kurtz. Bonus: It can also strengthen calf muscles and make them look more defined. Stand up and lift your heels so that you are standing on the balls of your feet. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat 10 times. Squeeze your toes. To strengthen the toes and help alleviate foot pain from hammertoes (when a toe resembles a claw), separate your toes using corks or foam toe separators and then squeeze your toes together for five seconds. Repeat 10 times. Roll a ball. Want to create an instant massage for the bottom of your feet? Roll a golf ball or tennis ball under the ball of your foot. Apply light pressure for about two minutes. This exercise can be helpful for arch pain, cramps, and heel pain from plantar fasciitis. Stretch standing up. A weight-bearing, runners-type stretch can be helpful for foot pain in the arch. Stand up and place your toes against a wall; lean forward a little until you feel your arch stretch. Repeat using the other foot. Stretch sitting down. Sit barefoot and cross your left leg so that your ankle rests on your right thigh. Then hold your toes and bend them back toward your shin, stretching the band of tissue connecting the bottom of the heel to the ball. A University of Rochester study found that people living with plantar fasciitis had a 75 percent chance of having no pain within three to six months of performing this stretch three times daily. Give yourself a foot massage. Nothing spells pain relief like a good foot rub. Use the following technique recommended by Rhonda Crockett, a licensed massage therapist at Ohio State University?s Center for Integrative Medicine in Columbus. Start with your toes, using your thumb to massage them in circular motions. Then move to the arch under your foot and gradually work your way down to the heel, applying pressure with your fingers and palm of your hand. Use lotion to allow your hand to move smoothly over your foot. Relax in a warm bath with Epsom salts. The combination of warm water and Epsom salts will give you a double dose of pain relief and relaxation. Magnesium sulfate, the key compound in Epsom salts, has been found to relax muscles, reduce pain, and sedate the nervous system. Plus, warm water helps improve circulation in the feet and relieve muscle pain. Crockett recommends adding two cups of Epsom salts to a warm bath and soaking for 20 minutes.