Lacey Sabata

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Working With Fallen Arches


Acquired Flat Foot

The condition of flat feet in adults is known as ?fallen arches.? Not all adults develop flat feet, and some people are more prone to developing the condition than others. An obese person puts extra weight on their feet while walking or standing. Over time, this can weaken the components that make up the arch and cause the arch to collapse. A woman who is pregnant may also suffer from flat feet during her pregnancy. The problem with developing flat feet as an adult is that in most cases the changes are permanent, if not bothersome. Doctors recommend using custom-made orthotics in shoes to treat the problem. Flat feet were once considered a result of poor health, but it has been proven that athletes such as runners, who are in great condition, also suffer from flat feet. In fact, it?s very common among track runners. Flat feet were once thought of as a bad thing. But studies show that people with higher arches are four times more likely to injure or sprain their ankles than people with flat feet. Studies conducted by the military have discredited the idea that flat feet are a reason to be excused from service.


Flat feet can be caused by injury, aging, and weight gain. They can cause pain in the feet and may lead to pain in other parts of the body such as the ankles, knees, or hips. For this reason, it behooves us to treat fallen arches. The question becomes how to do so.


Not everyone who has flat feet experiences symptoms. Others, however, feel persistent pain in their feet and wearing shoes can prove additionally painful. Others only feel symptoms when they walk more than normal, go jogging or participate in a sport that involves running or kicking.


Runners are often advised to get a gait analysis to determine what type of foot they have and so what kind of running shoe they require. This shouldn?t stop at runners. Anyone that plays sports could benefit from this assessment. Sports shoes such as football boots, astro trainers and squash trainers often have very poor arch support and so for the 60-80% of us who do overpronate or have flat feet they are left unsupported. A change of footwear or the insertion of arch support insoles or orthotics can make a massive difference to your risk of injury, to general aches and pains and even to your performance.

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Non Surgical Treatment

Have you found yourself in the store looking at all the different foot care products? There is everything from massaging gel insoles to foam arch supports and heel cushions. If your arches fall the same amount on each side, you might be able to use an insert off the shelf. If they fall differently, then a generic insert will not fix the imbalance. If you have a high arch, a generic insert will likely not be high enough for full correction. Good custom orthotics provide a number of advantages over the generic inserts that you find in the store. Custom orthotics can take into account your body weight and degree of flexibility in your foot, not someone else?s. They also account for the anatomical differences in your feet. The corrected height of one arch is often higher in one foot than the other. A G-Laser foot analysis can provide you with this information.

Surgical Treatment

Flat Foot

Procedures may include the following. Fusing foot or ankle bones together (arthrodesis). Removing bones or bony growths, also called spurs (excision). Cutting or changing the shape of the bone (osteotomy). Cleaning the tendons' protective coverings (synovectomy). Adding tendon from other parts of your body to tendons in your foot to help balance the "pull" of the tendons and form an arch (tendon transfer). Grafting bone to your foot to make the arch rise more naturally (lateral column lengthening).

After Care

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.