Though you’ve probably heard the term “flat feet,” you may not know what this means, or how it can affect you. Human feet typically contain an arch. Without the arch, the foot has less structural support. Still, it’s possible not only to survive, but to thrive with flat feet.
Advanced Foot & Ankle Center has numerous locations staffed by compassionate and experienced podiatrists who understand the risks, however small, that come with flat feet. Our expansive team has decades of collective experience to help you keep your feet healthy, no matter whether your arch is ideal or different.
What’s the deal with flat feet?
Flat feet are normal. In fact, everyone is born with flat feet, and most of us develop arches over time. Though arches usually appear by age six, there’s nothing medically concerning if they never develop. Children with flat feet require the same types of shoes as children with arches — shoes that are sturdy, supportive, and comfortable.
Likewise, there are plenty of adults who live with flat feet, and are fine in their daily lives, including playing sports and working in labor-intensive jobs. Just like anyone else, they should wear sturdy, comfortable shoes.
Genetics aren’t the only cause of flat feet, but occurrences of flat feet can run in families and closely related communities. Even in the case of people with arched feet, it’s possible for your arch to fall, resulting in flat feet. Risk factors for developing flat feet include:
- Damaged or diseased tendons
- Family history
While some causes of flat feet are more likely to be painful than others, having flat feet puts you at elevated risk of experiencing pain at several points on your body.
What could happen to my flat feet?
People living with flat feet aren’t guaranteed to experience pain any more than people with arched feet are guaranteed to be pain free. However, people with flat feet are more prone to experiencing pain after exercising, particularly after walking or running, than are people with arched feet. Pain is the most common symptom of flat feet, with discomfort affecting the knees, hips, and ankles.
Some of the big concerns for flat feet involve issues with the tendons, like plantar fasciitis and tight tendon, and painful conditions like hammertoes. Flat feet are also vulnerable to developing bunions, which can be unsightly and uncomfortable. Like the flat feet themselves, bunions can start as something harmless and develop into something painful.
How do I take care of my feet?
Taking care of your feet is important to your overall health, and flat feet need extra care. Pay attention to your feet — how they look while you’re sitting, and when you stretch your leg. Studies have shown dramatic improvements in foot health for those who consistently perform foot exercises.
Flat feet can be treated. Shallow lunges and toe lifts are recommended for strengthening flat feet, and so are calf raises, and rolling a tennis or golf ball under each foot for a few minutes at a time. Exercises may be used in conjunction with other treatments, depending on what your provider determines is best for you.
Treating flat feet in adults also includes a wardrobe of supportive footwear. As you’re performing foot-strengthening exercises, make sure that your shoe collection contains mostly comfortable shoes. Avoid thin, cheap sandals and heels. Over-the-counter orthotics are available at most national drugstore chains, or we may order custom orthotics for you.
For children living with flat feet, changing the weight distribution in the feet is the first and most conservative step to relief. To do this, we may use braces for the feet, or custom orthotic devices that fit into your child’s shoes.
Severe cases in children and adults may be treated with surgery, which prevents issues with flat feet later in life.
I think I feel it in my knees.
While flat feet might not directly carry the same amount of fear or concern as broken bones, they can directly affect your quality of life, especially if they’re painful and/or affected by another chronic condition. It’s common to experience pain in your lower extremities by straining the ankle, knee, and hip joints.
Foot pain can happen to anyone, and people living with flat feet might not know that they have options. For any issues that affect your feet, regardless of your arch, contact your provider at the Advanced Foot & Ankle Center location most convenient to you.