If you talk to your local podiatrist about common foot problems, he or she will probably tell you that fallen arches, or flat feet, are among them. But this extremely common problem — in which the tissues on the bottom of the foot fail to support the longitudinal arch — can cause considerable consternation for patients. There’s no need to panic; you just need the right information. Here are answers to five of the questions you probably have:
- How Can I Test My Feet?
It’s actually fairly easy to do a self-test for flat feet. Just get your feet wet, step on something that will show clear footprints (such as a concrete walkway), and take a look at the footprints. If you don’t see a void on the inner edge of your footprint, your arches have probably fallen. At that point, you should get an examination from your local podiatrist to see what’s causing the problem.
- What Causes Flat Feet?
Flat feet can be caused by many things, and you can’t control all of them. Some people just have congenital structural abnormalities in the feet, some people get fallen arches because of overstretched tendons, and some people get flat feet after an acute injury such as a broken bone in the foot. Tendinitis, rheumatoid arthritis, obesity, diabetes or pregnancy may also contribute to flat feet.
- Are Flat Feet a Problem?
Flat feet aren’t inherently a problem, but many people experience flat foot pain or pain elsewhere in the body because feet without proper arches don’t absorb shock as well. It’s common for flat feet to tire more quickly, in general, as well.
- Should I Use Insoles?
There’s some debate over whether flat foot insoles actually help. If you’re considering shoe inserts, you should make a distinction between drugstore inserts (which are essentially just padding) and custom orthotics recommended by a podiatrist. The latter are, predictably, much more likely to give you the arch support you need. Any use of insoles should generally be combined with stretching and physical therapy.
- Are There Treatments?
If your pain is severe, you may need to look into more long-term treatments for flat feet. There’s actually more than one kind of flat foot surgery. Your local podiatrist may recommend fusing together bones in the foot or ankle, removing bony growths or spurs, shaving down the bone, adding tendons taken from elsewhere in the body to the foot area, grafting bone to make a more natural arch, or modifying the protective coverings on the tendons of the feet.
Do you have any other questions or some experience to share? Join the discussion in the comments.