Flat Feet

Having flat feet, a condition referred to as pes planus or fallen arches, is rarely serious, but can cause pain when you do extensive physical activity. If you have flat feet, your feet don’t have a normal arch when you are standing.

Flatfoot can be a complex disorder with diverse symptoms and varying degrees of deformity and disability. There are several types of flatfoot, all of which have one characteristic in common: partial or total collapse (loss) of the arch.

Other characteristics shared by most types of flatfoot include:

  • “Toe drift,” in which the toes and front part of the foot point outward.
  • Flattening of the inside of the arch (instep) to the floor when standing.
  • The heel tilts toward the outside and the ankle appears to turn in.
  • A tight Achilles tendon, which causes the heel to lift off the ground earlier
    when walking and may make the problem worse.
  • Bunions and hammertoes may develop as a result of a flatfoot.

What is the most common type of flatfoot?

Flexible flatfoot is one of the most common types of flatfoot where the arches in your feet appear only when you lift them off the ground, and your soles touch the ground fully when you place your feet on the ground. It typically begins in childhood or adolescence and continues into adulthood. It usually occurs in both feet and progresses in severity throughout the adult years. As the deformity worsens, the soft tissues (tendons and ligaments) of the arch may stretch or tear and can become inflamed.

What causes flat feet?

There are various causes for flat feet including:

  • Genetics
  • Weak arches
  • Foot or ankle injury
  • Arthritis or rheumatoid arthritis
  • Damage, dysfunction, or rupture of the posterior tibial tendon
  • Nervous system or muscle diseases, such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, or spina bifida

What are the symptoms of flat feet?

Symptoms which may occur in some  persons with flexible flatfoot include:

  • Pain in the heel, arch, ankle, or along the outside of the foot
  • “Rolled-in” ankle (over-pronation)
  • Pain along the shin bone (shin splint)
  • General aching or fatigue in the foot or leg
  • Low back, hip or knee pain

Flat feet can also develop as a result of medical conditions, such as pregnancy, obesity, or diabetes. Even age and the daily use of the feet can cause the posterior tibial tendon (the primary support structure for the foot arch) to weaken. If the tendon becomes inflamed (tendinitis) or tears after overuse, the damage to the tendon may cause the foot arch to flatten.

How are flat feet diagnosed?

In diagnosing flatfoot, Dr. Neitzel examines the foot and observes how it looks when you stand and sit. X-rays are sometimes taken to determine the severity of the disorder. If you are diagnosed with flexible flatfoot but you don’t have any symptoms, Dr. Neitzel will explain what you might expect in the future.

What treatment options are available for flat feet?

Treatment for flat feet may range from noninvasive options to surgical intervention to help relieve foot pain and improve function for patients. 

If you suspect you have flat feet, we recommend an examination and treatment as soon as possible. Treatment in the early stages of flat feet can prevent progression to the later stages.

Nonsurgical Treatment

If you experience symptoms with flexible flatfoot, Dr. Neitzel may recommend nonsurgical treatment options, including:

  • Activity modifications. Cut down on activities that bring you pain and avoid prolonged walking and standing to give your arches a rest.
  • Weight loss. If you are overweight, try to lose weight, as putting too much weight on your arches may aggravate your symptoms. If flat feet make it difficult for weight loss, you should have Dr. Neitzel evaluate your treatment options.  
  • Orthotic devices. Dr. Neitzel can provide you with custom orthotic devices for your shoes to give more support to the arches.
  • Immobilization. In some cases, it may be necessary to use a walking cast or to avoid weight-bearing completely.
  • Medications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, help reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Physical therapy. Ultrasound therapy or other physical therapy modalities may be used to provide temporary relief.
  • Shoe modifications. Wearing shoes that support the arches is important for anyone who has flatfoot.

Surgical Treatment

In some patients whose pain is not adequately relieved by other treatments, surgery may be considered. A variety of surgical techniques is available to correct flexible flatfoot, and one or a combination of procedures may be required to relieve the symptoms and improve foot function.

In selecting the procedure or combination of procedures for your particular case, Dr. Neitzel will take into consideration the extent of your deformity based on the x-ray findings, your age, your activity level, and other factors. The length of the recovery period will vary, depending on the procedure or procedures performed.

Flat Feet Treatment in Silverdale, Washington

Dr. Neitzel offers a full range of nonsurgical and surgical treatments for flat feet. If you would like to learn more about our services or to schedule an appointment, please call (360) 286-0404.