Fallen arches or flat feet is a condition in which the arch or instep of the foot collapses and comes in contact with the ground. In some individuals, this arch never develops while they are growing. Flat feet (also called pes planus or fallen arches) is a formal reference to a medical condition in which the arch of the foot collapses, with the entire sole of the foot coming into complete or near-complete contact with the ground. In some individuals (an estimated 20-30% of the general population) the arch simply never develops in one foot (unilaterally) or both feet (bilaterally).
Flat feet are often a congenital problem which has no specific cause. They can however occur after an injury, especially conditions such as Tibialis Posterior Syndrome or more traumatic injuries such as fractures or mid-tarsal joint sprains. The other thing to look out for is Overpronation. Often this is confused with having flat feet (or a fallen arch) although it is not technically the same thing. If an individual does not have flat feet but does overpronate then the arch of their foot appears to be normal when standing. However, when they walk the arch collapses and the foot rolls in excessively. This is more difficult to spot than flat feet. It is estimated that between 60 and 80% of the population overpronate!
Structural problems in your feet like fallen arches can alter your walking pattern, running pattern and cause pain throughout your body. Clear and accurate assessment of the mechanics of your lower limbs is key to understanding the profound effect that subtle faults in your foot, ankle, knee and hip alignment can cause.
Podiatrists are trained in expertly assessing flat feet and identifying different risk factors and the causes for it. Initial assessment will begin with a detailed history attempting to find out if any underlying illness has resulted in this. A detailed clinical examination normally follows. The patient may be asked to perform certain movements such as walking or standing on their toes to assess the function of the foot. Footwear will also be analysed to see if there has been excessive wear or if they are contributing to the pronation of the foot. To assess the structure of the foot further, the podiatrist may perform certain x-rays to get a detailed idea of the way the bones are arranged and how the muscle tissues may be affecting them. It also helps assess any potential birth defects in a bit more detail.
Non Surgical Treatment
Get shoes made for walking or running. One way to support your arch is to wear good-quality running or walking shoes, says Dr. Gastwirth. "These shoes generally provide good support to the foot." Add support. The top-of-the-line arch support is an orthotic insole, which may cost $900 or more and must be custom-made. "But many people with sore arches will get relief with over-the-counter arch supports for about $10," suggests Judith Smith, M.D., assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. "The thing to remember about arch supports is that your shoe must have enough depth to accommodate them. Otherwise, you'll get a lot of rubbing on the top of your foot, or your heel will come out of the shoe." Most mens shoes are deep enough to accommodate the insoles; women should take their shoes with them to the drugstore when buying the insoles to ensure a good fit. If your heels are high, keep them wide. High heels may be your Achilles' heel--especially if you wear them constantly. "Flatter shoes are no doubt better," says Dr. Sanfilippo. Flat heels help prevent fallen arches and are kinder to your feet if fallen arches have already occurred. "If you must wear high heels, choose styles with a wide heel. Stay away from stiletto heels."
Generally one of the following procedures is used to surgically repair a flat foot or fallen arch. Arthrodesis. One or more of your bones in the foot or ankle are fused together. Osteotomy. Correcting alignment by cutting and reshaping a bone. Excision. Removing a bone or a bone spur. Synovectomy. Cleaning the sheath that covers the tendon. Tendon transfer. Using a piece of one tendon to lengthen or replace another. Arthroereisis. placing a small device in the subtalar joint to limit motion. For most people, treatment is successful, regardless of the cause, although the cause does does play a major role in determining your prognosis. Some causes do not need treatment, while others require a surgical fix.
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.