Flat feet are the result of a reduced or undetectable arch in the inner foot. This arch is noticeable while standing in most adults. It supports the foot and allows muscles to align properly for optimum movement. In those with no arches in their feet, the foot tends to roll in causing the feet to point outward.
While most people with low arches do not have any problems, straining of the muscles meant to be aligned while the feel are pointing forward can cause pain and stress on the knees, ankles, and feet. Additionally, the outward point of the feet is commonly known as duck feet and is quite noticeable to others.
Genetic heritage is a common factor in fallen arches, especially if it is noticeable in children. Weakness in arches can be a cause. This is especially noticeable if there is an adequate arch while someone is sitting, but this disappears whenever that person stands up. Injury or ruptured tendon can cause fallen arches as well as arthritis if it is advanced enough. Pregnancy can cause this condition as women typically gain weight while carrying a child. Diseases such as spina bifida, cerebral palsy, and muscular dystrophy can cause symptoms in the foot. In childhood, the foot can grow in such a way that stiffness and flat feet develop even with no family history. Diabetes can be blamed to fallen arches, especially when left untreated. Finally, age and usage can be causes of fallen arches. In athletes who participate in a sport long term, the muscles of the foot can atrophy due to repetitive use. If this overuse causes some of the tendons in the foot or calf to tear or weaken, arches may suffer from the imbalance.
Some affected with flat feet never know that they have this condition because their body makes the necessary gait changes to account for the imbalance. The most common treatment for fallen arches is fitted insoles. These are available over the counter or by prescription from a doctor. Additionally, well-fitted footwear will provide significant improvement in comfort for those who suffer from flat feet. If flat feet are related to an injury, implements such as shoe wedges can be inserted to take tension away from the tendon tissue. Ankle braces can also be utilized, especially if acute injury is present. As with most foot injuries, reduced use and rest are always beneficial especially if overuse or exercise caused the pain in the first place. If these interventions are not sufficient, painkillers may be implemented. If severe pain continues to persist, surgery may need to be considered. Weight loss can also be considered as reduced weight will lessen the pressure on the foot, often alleviating pain and discomfort.