Have your feet ever felt sore after a short walk or wondered why your shoes wear out unevenly? We have answers! Both situations could be signs of having flat feet, a common condition where the arches inside your feet collapse.
While often painless, flat feet can lead to discomfort and other issues over time. Let’s explore this condition’s causes, impacts, and non-surgical remedies.
Understanding Flat Feet: Causes and Consequences
Flat feet or fallen arches can occur when the arches of the foot don’t develop during childhood or when they collapse due to injury, aging, or other factors.
Here are some potential reasons for flat feet:
- Genetic Factors: Flat feet can be hereditary, passed down from parents to children.
- Aging: Our tendons can weaken as we age, potentially leading to collapsed arches.
- Injury: Injuries to the foot or ankle can damage the tendons supporting the arches.
- Obesity: Excessive weight adds pressure to the arches of the feet, which can contribute to their collapse.
- Medical Conditions: Certain conditions like diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis can contribute to flat feet.
Having flat feet affects more than just the shape of your foot. Since they support your entire body, any alteration in their structure can cause a ripple effect on your overall posture and gait. Fallen arches can lead to a series of complications if not addressed properly. Here’s a deeper look into the broader impacts of flat feet and how to manage them.
Altered Posture and Gait – Flat feet can lead to an inward rolling of the ankle, known as overpronation. Overpronation can alter your natural walking pattern, affecting your knees, hips, and spine.
Increased Risk of Injuries – Due to the altered biomechanics, there’s a higher risk of injuries, including sprains, shin splints, and stress fractures.
Development of Bunions and Hammertoes – The altered foot mechanics can lead to other problems like bunions and hammertoes.
As you might imagine, these foot problems can negatively impact your quality of life. When your feet are not functioning optimally, it can lead to discomfort and pain, limiting your mobility and interfering with daily activities. In some cases, it can cause a ripple effect on your sense of physical and mental well-being. For example, working a job where you are on your feet all day can become debilitating and affect your ability to perform.
Non-Surgical Approaches for Managing Flat Feet
As foot care professionals, we often recommend non-surgical treatments to help effectively alleviate flat feet’ symptoms. Here are some of the non-surgical approaches we recommend for people with fallen arches.
Orthotic Inserts: Custom-made or over-the-counter arch supports can help distribute pressure evenly across your feet.
Stretching Exercises: Exercises targeting the Achilles tendon and the posterior tibial tendon can help strengthen foot muscles.
Supportive Shoes: Choosing shoes with plenty of arch support and cushioning can provide relief. Types of shoes to avoid include flip-flips, high heels, ballet flats, and shoes that are too rigid, narrow, or worn out, as they lack needed support and cushioning.
Weight Management: If obesity contributes to fallen arches, weight loss can help minimize the pressure on your feet. Any weight you lose will help your cause.
Flat feet don’t define your capabilities or limit your potential. You can stride forward confidently and comfortably with the proper care and attention.
Easy Exercises to Strengthen Flat Feet
Even if you don’t have fallen arches, you can benefit from stretches and exercises to keep your feet limber and flexible. Here are some simple foot exercises suitable for doing at home:
Heel Raises: Stand on your toes on the edge of a step, then lower your heels below the level of the step.
Arch Lifts: While standing, try to lift the arches of your feet while keeping your toes and heels on the ground.
Toe Yoga: Try to lift your big toe while keeping your other toes on the ground and vice versa.
People with collapsed arches or flat feet should incorporate foot exercises into their daily routine. Start with a few minutes each day and gradually increase the time as your feet strengthen. Spending 10-15 minutes daily on these exercises is a good goal.
Light exercise, including walking, swimming, or cycling, can complement your foot exercises and contribute to overall foot health.
However, if you experience pain or discomfort, scale back and consult a foot care professional.
Frequently Asked Questions About Flat Feet
Q: Can flat feet be cured?
A: While flat feet aren’t always curable, especially if caused by genetics, the symptoms of this condition can be managed effectively using the right approach.
Q: Are flat feet always a cause for concern?
A: Only sometimes. If flat feet aren’t causing any pain or discomfort, they typically don’t require treatment.
Q: Can children outgrow flat feet?
A: Many children’s feet develop arches as they grow. However, some may continue to have flat feet into adulthood.
Q: Should I see a doctor for my flat feet?
A: If you experience pain, discomfort, or other issues related to flat feet, it’s advisable to consult a foot care professional.
Dealing with flat feet is something that many people experience, but it doesn’t have to be a roadblock. With the proper care, including targeted exercises and supportive measures, managing flat feet is possible and empowering. If discomfort or pain from flat feet is part of your life, these non-surgical methods can offer relief and improve foot health.
Remember, each foot is as unique as the person it belongs to. What brings results for one person might differ for another. Seeking personalized guidance from a foot care specialist is your best step toward finding what works perfectly for you.
Ready to Step Forward?
If flat feet are impacting your life, or if you’re seeking specialized advice, don’t hesitate to reach out. At Plymouth Podiatry, our footcare professionals help you put your best forward and help you take the first step toward a comfortable and active lifestyle. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.