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First Choice Allied Health Blog

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Should I be Worried about Flat Feet?

Flat feet is a term used to describe when the inside arches of the feet are quite low, allowing almost the entire sole of the foot to touch the floor when standing.

In most cases both feet are affected but it is possible to have only one fallen arch. Genetics do play a part in people having flat feet. Some people are just born with lowered or nonexistent arches, whilst other people do have conditions that cause the feet to become flat. People with neurological or muscular disease such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, or spina bifida are more likely to be sufferers than the general population without these conditions.

It’s important to have a proper diagnosis to determine the causes of flat feet, and if treatment is required.

Flat Feet in Children

Children's arches develop slowly over time. In the early years, all babies and most toddlers have flat feet due to low muscle tone AND the fat pad hiding the developing arch. But once they start walking and running, their arches usually start to develop around age 6.

If there is a family history of flat feet, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the development of a child’s feet to pick up any issues early, so appropriate action can be taken.

Treatment could be as simple as changing the style of footwear they wear or introducing exercises which will strengthen the foot and help to develop an arch. Treatment would always be tailored to the individual child and consider their age, the severity of symptoms and their activity levels.

In a severe case, a podiatrist may recommend insoles or custom orthotics to help both a child’s feet and posture. Orthotics can take the pressure off the foot and help the arch develop naturally.

In many cases, children with flat feet will not need any treatment for the condition. A podiatrist’s assessment will determine whether intervention is necessary or not.

Flat Feet in Adults

In adults, flat feet usually remain permanently flat. Treatment is mainly focused on managing symptoms - rather than “fixing” the flat feet.

Not all people with flat feet suffer from pain or have trouble with them, but flat feet can sometimes contribute to problems in the ankles and knees because the condition alters alignment and may therefore present as pain in other areas.

The main symptoms experienced are:

  • regular pain in the feet or legs
  • tripping or falling often
  • feet that are weak, numb or stiff

As outlined earlier, genetics are sometimes to blame for flat feet but there are particular cases where flat feet develop over a person’s life.

The two main causes are:

  • an injury
  • age-related wear and tear on the feet (which causes the arch to drop)

After a thorough assessment a podiatrist could develop a treatment plan that might include:

  • Taping
  • Orthotics: to redistribute plantar pressure of the foot, correct foot posture and reduce stress on your flat feet
  • Electrotherapy: to reduce pain and inflammation, increase circulation and mobility of soft tissue
  • Shockwave Therapy: increase blood flow to the treated area, release trigger points, re-boot the healing process, reduce pain and accelerate collagen synthesis
  • Calf muscles stretches to improve flexibility
  • Wearing more supportive shoes
  • Weight loss (if weight was a contributing factor)

If you have any concerns about your feet, it is always worth having a consultation with a podiatrist to rule out any serious issues and, if required, develop a plan to reduce any discomfort you are experiencing.

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