Sometimes flat is good. You want flat streets so your car or bike doesn’t bounce all over the place, and the flat shore at Daytona Beach is great for racing. Flat irons are great if you occasionally want to straighten out your curls. Even flat feet are fine, as long as they don’t cause pain or limit your activities. But when you’ve had a regular arch in your foot, and something has caused it to collapse, you may have a problem.
Tendons Determine Your Arch
We all start out with flat feet. Babies begin to develop an arch when they start standing and taking steps (although some inherit a form that will remain flat). Gradually the tendons that hold the bones in place tighten up and lift the midfoot into a gentle curve (some will inherit a higher curve). The plantar fascia and the posterior tibial tendon (PTT) are the main tissues that help hold the curve, or arch, up.
This structure is actually very efficient for what the foot must do. The arch can flex with each step, absorbing the impact and reducing excessive trauma to your leg bones and spine. As it springs back into position, it also gives a bit of oomph to push off for the next step.
When Tendons Stretch or Tear
Aging, overuse, conditions like rheumatoid arthritis—there are many things that can cause the tendons to become weaker. Running puts a lot of pressure on the arch, so athletes often have problems like plantar fasciitis or damage to the PTT. When the tissues stretch too far or develop tiny tears from the stress, they can become inflamed and swell up, putting pressure on the surrounding tissue which can be quite painful.
Repeated inflammation weakens the tissue even more, and it is no longer able to hold the arch in place. The extra weight of pregnancy or obesity, along with the effects of diabetes on body tissues, are other factors that contribute to flat feet. Falling arches spread the tissue out even more, and bones can begin to move out of position, adding to the pain.
When to Consult a Podiatrist
If you notice any of the following symptoms, it’s time to visit Atlantic Foot & Ankle Associates and find a solution to your foot pain:
- Your feet feel tired and achy at the end of the day, especially under the arch and heel
- The inner edge of your sole feels swollen
- It is difficult to stand up on your toes
- You have more leg and back pain than usual
We will check your feet, the wear on your shoes, and your health history to determine whether you have had flat feet to start with. We may also test the strength of the tendons in your feet and lower legs, and watch as you try certain movements, such as standing on tiptoe. In addition, imaging tests like X-rays or MRIs may be used to view the shape of your arch. Once we know what is causing your problems, we tailor a treatment plan for you.
Conservative treatments include things like icing, pain relievers, stretching and physical therapy exercises, as well as injections of medications. We may also recommend shoe modifications or custom orthotics to better support your arch, and in some cases a brace or cast can help the injury heal. In extreme cases, surgery to fuse, reshape, or remove sections of bone can bring relief from the pain.
You can do your part by staying healthy, keeping your feet and ankles limber, and wearing shoes that fit and support your feet properly. If you have questions about what else you can do to head off or deal with your arch pain, call Atlantic Foot & Ankle Associates in Palm Coast FL at (386) 586-7373. You can also check our website for our other nearby locations and contact information. Flat feet can be just fine with proper care. Contact us today!
Photo Credit: dcarson924