Flat feet (pes planus) occur when the shape of the foot doesn’t have a normal arch. It’s most noticeable when the individual is standing up straight. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, it’s a very common condition. Unfortunately, it’s a condition that can come with pain, discomfort, and even lead to other foot conditions. So, can the condition be cured?
It is possible to find relief from fallen arches. There are different ways to do so. But, it’s important to know more about the condition itself before you dive into different treatment options.
Flat feet are considered to be normal in infants and toddlers. When a child is born, the tendons and muscles in their feet are looser. As we age, those tendons tighten up and gain strength. As the muscles become stronger, arches form. Some people don’t experience as much tightening and strengthening. Because of that, they may never have ‘normal’ arches.
If you do already have formed arches, several things can cause flat feet later in life. Things like aging, injury, weight, or even illness can contribute to a weakening of your arches, causing them to fall.
Table of Contents:
- 1 Is There a Cure for Flat Feet?
- 1.1 How Do I Know If I Have Flat Feet?
- 1.2 What’s the Problem with Fallen Arches?
- 1.3 Is Medical Treatment an Option?
- 1.4 Physical Therapy
- 1.5 Foot Exercises for Fallen Arches
- 1.6 Arch Support Insoles for Flat Feet
- 1.7 Custom Orthotics
- 1.8 Corticosteroids
- 1.9 Losing Weight to Fix Flat Feet
- 1.10 Other Related Articles:
Is There a Cure for Flat Feet?
Most flat feet don’t cause problems. However, for some people, it can lead to foot, ankle, knee, or even hip pain. People who are active or are on their feet often tend to experience more discomfort from fallen arches than others.
If you experience these symptoms regularly and know you have flat feet, it’s likely you’ll want to do something about it. You don’t have to live with discomfort just because of genetics!
This guide will cover several different ways to fight back against any discomfort caused by flat feet. There are a few common methods people use to find help. If you think you can handle the pain or discomfort caused by your fallen arches, however, you should note the other foot conditions that could occur if you don’t strengthen the tendons in your feet.
How Do I Know If I Have Flat Feet?
You might think the pain in your feet comes from being overly-active or standing in one place for too long. These can be contributors, of course, but there are telltale signs of fallen arches you should be aware of.
Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Pain around the arches and heels of your feet
- Shoes that don’t fit correctly
- Difficulty standing on your toes
- Swollen ankles
If you’re still unsure, perform a flat surface test. Make sure the bottom of your feet are damp and step onto a dry surface. Take a look at the imprint your feet leave behind. Someone with regular arches will leave a space between the ball of their foot and their heel. If you have flat feet, you should be able to see the entire outline of your foot, with most of the space filled in.
What’s the Problem with Fallen Arches?
Is it really necessary to try to ‘treat’ flat feet? We’ve already covered that fallen arches are commonly associated with pain. Not only is it common to experience that pain in your feet, but the ankles, knees, and hips can also be affected.
Flat feet are also associated with several additional foot conditions. Not everyone with fallen arches will experience these, but not strengthening your foot muscles can contribute to them. Some of the most common risks associated with fallen arches include:
Some of the most common risks associated with fallen arches include:
- Overpronating: Overpronation happens when the foot rolls inward as someone stands. It’s common for people with flat feet. Pronation itself refers to a normal gait of someone standing, walking or running. When you have flat feet, it’s easy to overpronate. Your feet will absorb shock less efficiently, and they can ‘roll’ a little each time you take a step. If you’re really active, this can cause discomfort and become a risk for injury.
- Achilles tendinitis: The Achilles tendon can become damaged if you’re putting improper pressure on it due to flat feet. This can make something as simple as standing more painful, and can even cause inflammation and swelling around the heel.
- Shin splints: Typically reserved for runners, shin splints can occur easily in people with fallen arches because the shin bone becomes inflamed. This is due to an improper gait. Shin splints can be incredibly painful, and make it difficult to be very active.
- Bunions: These are usually associated with improper footwear. However, pes planus is a contributor because it causes your feet to be shaped improperly. When your feet can’t conform correctly to a shoe, bunions and calluses can easily form.
Not everyone with flat feet will experience these conditions, of course. However, weakened arches do increase your chances. By putting so much pressure on your whole foot with no shock absorption, pain and discomfort are just one of the many ‘small’ problem you may have to deal with. If you do start to experience one of the conditions listed above, further treatment may be necessary.
Is Medical Treatment an Option?
When it comes to flat feet treatment, some people consider having surgery. Flat foot reconstruction surgery is designed to restore the overall function of arches in an individual’s feet. It is typically left for those people who experience a lot of pain due to flat feet.
This type of treatment usually requires the individual to stay overnight in the hospital. It can be a bit invasive for some, as it involves a couple of different steps in ‘fixing’ the problem. There are two major parts to flat foot reconstruction surgery.
These are as follows:
- Three separate cuts are made on the foot after a general anesthetic is used to numb the foot. These cuts allow the doctor to remove the damaged, weak tendon that is causing pain. That tendon is then replaced with another one that adds strength and support.
- The second part of reconstruction surgery is a procedure called calcaneal osteotomy. This practice involves making another incision in the heel bone and inserting a metal screw. It may sound intense, but the screw is designed to reposition the heel so that it can better support the arch of the foot.
Does it Take a Long Time to Recover?
Like any surgery that requires incisions to be made, recovery can take some time. Because the process deals with the feet, it may take even longer because it requires you to keep weight off your feet for an extended period.
Recovery for this particular surgery will come in stages, and you’ll need to adjust accordingly. Within the first few days after surgery, you’ll probably experience a lot of numbness in the foot. This is intentional and will keep you as pain-free as possible after the intensity of surgery. It’s likely you’ll have to keep your foot in a plastered cast. In some cases, this cast will go up to the knee. Depending on your level of pain or discomfort, your doctor may want to keep you in the hospital for a few days. They may also prescribe painkillers so you can feel more comfortable at home.
During the weeks following surgery, there are things you can do at home to provide yourself with more comfort.
Some helpful tips include:
- Keeping your feet elevated as much as possible. This will help to keep swelling down.
- Keep weight off your leg(s). You may be advised to see a rehabilitation expert who can create a personalized program for your healing process.
- Avoid excessive movement.
- Don’t take anti-inflammatory medications. This can make a recovery take longer since the bones might not fuse together as quickly.
From a medical standpoint, you will need periodic check-ups after surgery for several weeks. What happens at these follow-up appointments varies on an individual basis. However, you can expect things like X-rays, new castings, and official reviews by your doctor.
Overall, you should be able to wear your own shoes again about twelve weeks after your initial surgery. Leading up to that point, you’ll go from a plaster cast to a boot. You may have to use crutches at some point, and may even be able to wear your own shoes earlier with the help of an insole or brace.
Is Surgery Risky?
Any type of surgery comes with its fair share of risks. Some of the common concerns people face when this type of procedure is performed include:
- Symptoms continuing even after surgery
- Nerve damage
These instances are rare but can happen if something goes wrong. The risk factor for this type of surgery is relatively low. However, it can still be considered invasive, and the recovery time is too long for some people to want to deal with. For those reasons, most people with flat feet tend to look for natural solutions.
Thankfully, there are a few ways to ‘fix’ flat feet on your own at home. These solutions can help to strengthen your arches, alleviate pain, and lower your risk for additional foot conditions.
Physical therapy is another medical option that can be less invasive than surgery. It’s better if you do have at least a little flexibility in your tendons and muscles. Some people with flat feet have very rigid, hard tendons. If you do have a bit of flexibility, physical therapy can be a great rehabilitation option.
When you see a physiotherapist for fallen arches, they will typically give you ideas on certain stretches you can do that will specifically cater to your needs. These stretches are designed to restore the arch of your foot and strengthen your tendons.
In addition to stretching exercises, physiotherapists can also use a special, sturdy tape to ‘create’ a temporary arch in your foot. This isn’t a permanent fix, but if you’re in a lot of pain, it can help to alleviate those symptoms.
Physical therapy can also relieve tenderness and inflammation in your arches with a therapeutic ultrasound. Of course, if you’re seeing a physical therapist in the first place, it’s likely you’re experiencing a lot of pain from your flat feet. Many of the options and solutions provided with physiotherapy are designed to get rid of that pain quickly and effectively. It is still considered a medical treatment, but you can use the lessons learned at home.
Foot Exercises for Fallen Arches
One of the best ways to fight back against the effects of flat feet is to perform exercises regularly. Like any other type of workout, the goal is to build muscle and add strength. Fallen arches are typically a result of weak tendons and muscles. By building up those muscles, you can strengthen your arches and lessen many of the issues associated with flat feet. Let’s take a look at a few useful exercises for pes planus.
- Calf raises: The ankles are a larger muscle group around the foot. Making sure they are strong and stable can provide a firm and solid foundation for balance. That’s why calf raises are so effective in strengthening fallen arches. They are easy to do on a set of stairs or even on level ground. If your balance isn’t the best, you may need to hold onto something for support until you get stronger.
- Towel grab: To complete this exercise, sit in a chair with a small towel in front of you. Grab the towel with your toes, and attempt to lift it off the floor. Repeat the process on the other foot and go back and forth for several repetitions.
- Standing arch raises: This is an exercise that should be completed from a standing position. Stand on one leg, making sure you have full balance and control. Once you do, raise the arch of the foot you’re standing on. Hold this position for a few seconds, then lower it back down. This will contract the muscles in your arch and help to strengthen them. Repeat the process on the other foot for one rep, and complete several reps each day.
Many arch exercises focus on ‘contracting’ your arches, as though they were doing a sit-up or crunch. However, you shouldn’t ignore things like toe yoga (stretching your toes) or massage therapy. Anything you can do to benefit the muscles and tendons in your feet and ankles can help to provide more strength and stability. These exercises, along with stretching are a great way to get rid of flat feet without surgery.
No matter what type of exercises you do pay close attention to how your body responds. These exercises are meant to stretch and strengthen. You should feel the process happening, and may even experience a bit of ‘soreness’ as you would from a solid workout.
However, you should never experience genuine pain from any of the exercises listed here. Don’t push yourself to the point of causing more damage. If you’re unsure which exercises may be best for you, talk to your physical therapist.
Arch Support Insoles for Flat Feet
Another simple solution for dealing with fallen arches is to consider your footwear. If you talk to a podiatrist, they will likely recommend shoes that are flexible and can provide extra cushioning and support. Your footwear should also be firm and stable with a sturdy heel cup. These characteristics will keep your heel aligned in place and will keep your feet and ankles from rolling inward.
If you don’t want to invest in new footwear, a popular option is to choose insoles specifically designed for people with flat feet. Often, these insoles are marketed toward athletes and runners. However, they can be useful for anyone who has fallen arches and experiences discomfort.
Arch support insoles can help to decrease pain, improve posture, and support your balance.
One of the best insoles for flat feet are the Superfeet Green Heritage Insoles. While they are slightly more expensive than some of their competitors, they provide a lot of support for people with pes planus. They are designed to fit in almost any type of footwear and will last a long time.
When looking for any type of arch support insole, think about the characteristics that will be most important to you. Some insoles are more flexible than others. Some are sturdier. Others features ‘extras’ like odor control, etc. The most important factor to keep in mind is that the insoles should provide enough cushioning to keep any pain or discomfort away, no matter what you’re doing.
If you don’t want to have surgery, but the pain from your flat feet is more than occasional, you may want to talk to a podiatrist about custom orthotics. While they won’t cure the problem, they will help to correct your foot placement and overall gait.
Think of custom orthotics as insoles specifically designed for you. Your podiatrist will take measurements of your foot and create something meant to get rid of your discomfort, personally. Almost instantly, you should notice a lessening of the pain in your feet, ankles, knees, and hips. In some cases, insurance companies will pay for customized orthotics. If flat feet are causing you an extreme amount of discomfort, and you can get orthotics through your insurance provider, it’s a great ‘quick fix’ option.
Some people who experience a lot of pain with their flat feet opt for corticosteroid injections. Corticosteroids can indeed help when it comes to reducing inflammation. They can also temporarily get rid of pain associated with fallen arches.
However, these injections are not a permanent fix. They are not considered a ‘cure’ for flat feet, and shouldn’t be used as one. While an injection once in awhile won’t do any harm, you shouldn’t grow dependent on them to manage your pain. If pain and inflammation persist, consider looking for a more permanent option for correcting your flat-footedness.
Losing Weight to Fix Flat Feet
One common reason people experience fallen arches as they get older is that they put too much weight on their feet. Obesity and pes planus are often closely linked. Losing weight obviously has a lot of benefits. When it comes to flat feet, lowering your weight will reduce the pressure placed on your tendons. It will also promote better circulation to your feet.
Obviously, there are many different methods to losing weight. Eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly are great places to start. You may not notice a difference right away since it can take some time to lose a sufficient amount of weight. However, if you stick with it, you’re bound to notice that your feet, ankles, knees, etc., start to feel better and less painful.
Is It Possible to Put an End to Flat Feet?
Curing flat feet depends on the cause behind them. In most cases, you can build up your arches and eliminate the symptoms associated with pes planus over time. However, if it’s a condition that is linked to bone formation from childhood, more drastic measures may need to be taken. That’s when surgery becomes a viable option.
No matter the reason for your flat feet, take a look at the possibilities listed in this guide. There are multiple ways to correct this issue. Some are long-term solutions, while others provide quick relief, but may not change the situation itself.
Most people with fallen arches are looking to decrease their pain, discomfort, and inflammation. Everything from choosing the right exercises to wearing the right shoes or insoles can make a difference. If you want to change the overall construction of your feet, contacting a podiatrist is likely the best option.
If you’ve suffered from symptoms of flat feet for any length of time, use some of the helpful tips listed here to find relief. It doesn’t matter if you’re an athlete, a casual runner, or just someone who is on their feet all day. You don’t have to live with the pain that often comes with fallen arches. Flat feet may not always be able to be ‘cured,’ but you can get rid of the negative aspects connected with them.