Managing Painful Flat Feet

The arch in the foot acts as a shock absorber with each step. It holds the foot in the best position to support your body's weight. When you have no arch, this support is gone. This puts additional stress on your legs and hips often resulting in ankle, knee and back pain. Here is what causes your flat feet and how you can address it to reduce your pain.

Muscles and Tendons Create the Arch

A series of muscles and tendons in the foot, as well as a large tendon extending into the foot from your calf, pull the bones of the foot into the natural arch. They also cause the foot and ankle to rotate out slightly. When these structures fail to hold the arch in place, your foot rests flat on the floor and the ankle and foot turn in. This subtle change is enough to put your ankles, knees and hips out of alignment. Instead of the shock-absorbing effect, the full force of each step transfers back up the legs and into your back. Painful joints and lower back are the typical symptoms from these fallen arches.

Causes of the Loss of the Arches in Your Feet

Your can be born with no arches in your feet, or you can develop fallen arches a number of ways, such as:

  • an injury to the tendons or muscles in the foot
  • gaining weight beyond what these structures can support
  • overstretching these structures by running without giving the muscles adequate time to rest
  • diseases such as diabetes and arthritis which can effect the ability of your muscles to hold the arch in place

Treatment Options

A foot doctor will measure how severe your fallen arches are and first recommend some non-invasive treatments to compensate for the loss of the arch. These treatments provide temporary relief from the pain by holding your foot in a more natural position. If these are not effective at reducing your pain, surgery may be needed to create a more permanent solution.

Non-invasive Options

  • Orthotics - The use of custom-made insoles can create an artificial arch for your feet.
  • Physical therapy - Foot and ankle exercises can strengthen the muscles and tendons helping them to hold your arch.
  • Braces and supports - These hold your foot and ankle in a better position. They are often used with the orthotics giving you better overall support.

Surgical Options

  • Fusion - An artificial arch can be constructed by fusing bones in your foot and ankle.
  • Tendon repositioning - By moving the attachment of the tendons to the bones in your foot, the muscles can better hold the shape of the arch.

The non-invasive approaches allow you to immediately experience relief. But they can wear out over time causing you to repeat the physical therapy or have new orthotics built for you (for a link, check it out here). Surgery is permanent but can keep you off of your feet for several months as your feet heal. If the non-invasive approaches stop working, surgery will be the only option to get natural arch support.