Since having flat feet is painless in most cases, intense medical attention is not usually warranted. In the event that the condition becomes painful, however, the advice from a physician could play a role in managing the discomfort.
What Are Flat Feet?
Flat feet simply means that the arches of the feet, which are typically positioned in childhood as tendons tighten, have fallen or never developed. When tendons become inflamed or torn, such as during certain sports, a flat foot could develop, causing pain and sometimes difficulty walking. Generally, circumstances that could increase the risk for fallen arches include diabetes, age, obesity, or injury to the foot or ankle.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
The classic symptom of flat feet is that the entire surface of the bottom of one or both feet touches the floor when a person stands. In most cases, the condition does not interfere with normal activities. In others, however, problems with the alignment of the legs could prove problematic. Pain in the heel or along where the arch should have formed and swelling near the ankle may occur as well, becoming more noticeable after certain periods of activity or prolonged standing.
Prevention and Treatment
When pain is an issue, a physician may want to evaluate the condition with CT scans, MRIs, or x-rays to assess the condition of the bones, tendons, and overall structure of the foot. If an arch develops when the patient stands on the toes or if walking is painless, then no further treatment is generally recommended. For painful fallen arches, treatment can range from special shoe inserts and braces to pain medications and surgical intervention, depending on what caused the flat feet to develop in the first place.
Patients can strive to take steps to avoid fallen arches by wearing supportive shoes, avoiding obesity, and preventing injury to the foot. Some cases of flat feet are inevitable for some people, however, and could develop despite the effort to avoid the condition. Fortunately, the condition generally does not interfere with everyday life nor need extensive care to manage. If the condition developed following ligament damage or bone fractures and is painful, then a prescribed treatment for the specific injury may be necessary to resolve, improve, or manage pain. Either way, appropriate podiatric care will clarify which route to take to monitor flat feet.