What are Flat Feet?
Flat feet are a congenital foot abnormality, whereas fallen arches are often a compensation caused by another issue and as a result, the foot arch collapses gradually over time. Flat feet or fallen arches may affect the mechanics of your feet, impacting your gait and distributing your weight unevenly causing secondary issues.
It's important to note that flat feet can be common in most children under 6 years of age and no cause for concern unless there is pain associated with them.
What is a Fallen Arch?
The upward curve on the bottom of the foot is called an arch. Foot arches are actually formed by two different arches. The transverse arch runs across the foot and the longitudinal arch runs down the foot. Several ligaments/tendons in your foot and lower leg attach the heel and foot bones to form the arches of the feet.
When the ligaments/tendons work properly, a normal adult foot will form a normal arch. When the tendons are not working together properly, the arches in your feet will collapse and you will get a fallen arch.
Causes of Fallen Arches
Congenital flat feet are hereditary, however, a fallen arch can develop over time from a range of causes.
In some cases, fallen arches can develop due to a compensation as a result of either:
Congenital foot malalignment
Malalignment of the legs
Interference from the hip joint
Tightness in the Achilles tendon
Tendon issues, such as damaged, inflamed or torn tendons, specifically the posterior tibial tendon
Health conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and obesity.
Fallen arches in children are usually compensation for issues such as:
Genetic foot instability
In-toeing - commonly referred to as 'pigeon toed'
In some cases, bones may not develop properly
Symptoms of Flat Feet & Fallen Arches
Pain in the feet and upper or lower leg pain
Issues with balance
Soreness in the feet and legs
Feet being susceptible to ‘rolling’
Feet feeling tired
Posture is out
Restricted foot movement i.e not able to stand on toes
How Can A Podiatrist Help?
It is important to get your flat feet assessed by a specialist earlier rather than later. If left untreated, flat feet can cause foot pain and can become increasingly difficult to manage. Flat feet can also cause a range of other problems not just with the feet but also the ankle, heel, and toes, and lead to total body pain.
It's essential to have your flat feet or fallen arches properly diagnosed. In some cases, you may be experiencing pain and other symptoms that you think are related to your flat feet such as plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis is actually the most common cause of heel pain, so it's important to discuss all of your symptoms with a specialist.
Fallen arches are often a symptom of an underlying issue. A podiatrist will determine the root cause of your symptoms. Our podiatrists will first asses and determine the cause of the fallen arches via a biomechanical assessment as well as review your medical history. A biomechanical assessment, also known as a gait assessment, is a physical assessment of your foot and body’s biomechanics.
This will help us to ascertain the cause of the fallen arches i.e. boney or muscle instability, and ensure you receive the correct treatment.
Treatment for Fallen Arches
Prescription Orthotic Devices
Prescription orthotics are shoe inserts that will help to support the arch and position the foot correctly to help reduce the pain you may be experiencing as well as making everyday activities such as walking more comfortable.
We will make high-quality orthotics perfectly tailored to your unique bone structure and foot issues.
Customised Exercises & Stretches
A customised exercise routine can help to build up the muscles that lift your arches and supinate your foot.
Referral to Allied Health Practitioners
For issues that we cannot treat or where the foot damage is severe, we refer you to allied health practitioners such as physios, chiros or foot surgeons as extreme cases may require surgery.
What to Bring to My Appointment
Please bring the following information to your appointment:
Wear shoes that you wear every day as well as your sports shoes
Shorts so you can comfortably do the assessments
Don’t Ignore Your Flat Feet
It's important not to ignore flat feet, as the instability and increased pressure on your joints impact other parts of your body such as the ankle, knee, hip and back. For example, a collapsed arch may cause your heel bone to shift and this can put pressure on the inside or outside of the ankle bone, causing pain. Or both arches collapsing causing an internal rotation of the legs, exacerbating a sway back & lower back pain may result.
For children and adolescents, it's important to treat flat feet early as the instability of the flat feet can cause other upper body compensations that can result in foot pain or foot damage and instability in later years.
You should see a podiatrist if you suspect you have fallen arches or are beginning to experience pain in the lower limbs and feet.
Frequently Asked Questions
Flat Feet/Fallen Arches Treatment Sydney
Flat feet and fallen arches (Pes Planus) occur where the sole of the foot has near or complete contact with the ground.
Flat feet and fallen arches are common issues that we treat at our North Sydney Podiatry clinic. We use non-surgical treatment options to help correct the issue. It's important to distinguish between flat feet and fallen arches. These two terms are grouped together but are different conditions affecting the feet.