| The Clinical Significance of Having “Flatfeet” and How to Manage the Condition
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The Clinical Significance of Having “Flatfeet” and How to Manage the Condition

The Clinical Significance of Having “Flatfeet” and How to Manage the Condition

Flatfeet ConditionFlatfeet, or pes planus as it is medically known, is an orthopedic or podiatric condition where the inside of the soles of the feet has a flatter arch than what is normally seen in the majority of people. This allows the entire soles of the feet to touch the ground when one stands up.

Flatfeet can be regarded as normal in the following scenarios:

  • The insides of the soles of the feet are normally flat in babies and young children because the arches of their feet haven’t developed fully yet.
  • Also, most individual’s foot arches develop during childhood and some people never develop foot arches which is a normal variation for them. These folks may or may not encounter any problems with their flatfeet later on.
  • Some children may exhibit flexible arches of their feet where the arch can be seen when they are standing on their toes or sitting but disappears when they stand on their feet. Most children tend to outgrow flexible flatfeet.

Risk factors associated with the development of flatfeet:

  • Injury sustained to the ankle and/or foot.
  • Obesity due to the pressure effect of excess weight on the feet, especially during the periods of development and puberty.
  • Normal wear-and-tear over the years which may cause the tendon that runs along the inside of the ankle and supports the foot arch (posterior tibial tendon) to weaken.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis.

Clinical presentation

  • Most individuals experience no pain or any other symptoms with flatfeet.
  • Pain may be experienced in those with a severe case of the condition, especially over the areas of the arch or heel.
  • Activity such as walking or running may worsen the pain.
  • Swelling over the inside of the ankle may occur.
  • Possible pain in the knees and hips due to changes in the patient’s gait due to the flatfeet.

Management

The initial management of flatfeet if they cause mild pain may include:

  • Resting the feet and avoiding activities that aggravate or worsen the symptoms.
  • Rather performing low-impact physical activities such as swimming, biking, or walking.
  • Using over-the-counter pain medications such as acetaminophen and/or anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen or naproxen.
  • Losing weight can also help reduce the stress exerted on the feet.

If these therapies are ineffective then one may want to consult with a physical therapist to help with the following:

  • Learning and performing techniques and exercises to help stretch and strengthen the Achilles tendon in the heel to offer support to the foot arches.
  • Performing a video analysis in runners to assess the way they run so that changes can be made to their techniques and form.

Orthotic devices placed in the affected individuals’ shoes may help to relieve the pain caused by flat feet. These can be attained by:

  • Purchasing good quality, over-the-counter supports.
  • Consulting with an allied healthcare professional such as an orthotist who will assess the patient and perform the correct measurements in order to produce custom-designed arch supports which are molded to the contours of the patients’ feet and taking into consideration their unique circumstances. This is done because not everyone has the same type and size of feet and will result in a better fit and outcome for the individual patient.
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