Flexible flatfeet are considered normal in young children because babies are not born with a normal arch. The arch may not form fully until sometime between ages 7 and 10. Even in adulthood, 15% to 25% of people have flexible flatfeet. Most of these people never develop symptoms. In many adults who have had flexible flatfeet since childhood, the missing arch is an inherited condition related to a general looseness of ligaments. These people usually have extremely flexible, very mobile joints throughout the body, not only in the feet. Flatfeet also can develop during adulthood. Causes include joint disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis, and disorders of nerve function (neuropathy).
Often, tarsal tunnel syndrome is misdiagnosed and confused with plantar fasciitis. Tarsal tunnel syndrome is when the tibial nerve which runs through the ankle, is pinched as it passes through the flexor retinaculum, the supportive band that surrounds the ankle joint. The symptoms of tarsal tunnel syndrome are often limited to the ankle but the since the nerve passes through the entire foot it can cause arch pain. Arch pain associated with foot strain is mainly caused by a pronated foot (rolls inward) or a flat foot. These are usually not singular causes of arch pain, but in combination with other factors, arch pain may result.
Repetitive exertive activity arch pain is usually sharp, and localized to a specific area, rather than the entire arch. Usually the pain occurs in the area just in front of the heel. It is present when first standing on the foot in the morning, but may decrease once you start walking around, but will, gradually becomes worse with continued walking or running. Swelling may be present. The pain subsides with rest, but stretching the arch while resting may cause the pain to return. Injury pain is constantly present, but worse when standing on the foot. This pain is localized to a specific area, but may radiate out from this area to the entire foot. The pain is sharp, and usually accompanied by swelling and occasionally "black and blue" discolorations. The pain due to the natural aging process is usually dull and aching, or stiff, and can be felt throughout the entire arch area, rather then in just one spot. This pain is present whenever weight bearing, and usually becomes worse with continued walking. The pain gradually subsides when resting, and usually does not return with stretching. Biomechanical defect pain is usually localized to a section of the arch, such as the inner, middle, outer, front, or back of the arch. This pain may be sharp or dull, but is always worse with continued walking.
In a person of any age, the doctor will ask about occupational and recreational activities, previous foot trauma or foot surgery and the type of shoes worn. The doctor will examine your shoes to check for signs of excessive wear. Worn shoes often provide valuable clues to gait problems and poor bone alignment. The doctor will ask you to walk barefoot to evaluate the arches of the feet, to check for out-toeing and to look for other signs of poor foot mechanics.
Non Surgical Treatment
Treatment isn't usually needed for flat feet because the condition doesn't usually cause any significant problems. Aching feet can often be relieved by wearing supportive shoes that fit properly. You may need to wear shoes that are wider than normal. If your feet overpronate, you may need to wear a special insole (an orthotic) inside your shoes to stop your feet rolling inwards when you walk or run. These will usually need to be made and fitted by a podiatrist.
In cases where cast immobilization, orthoses and shoe therapy have failed, surgery is the next alternative. The goal of surgery and non-surgical treatment is to eliminate pain, stop progression of the deformity and improve mobility of the patient. Opinions vary as to the best surgical treatment for adult acquired flatfoot. Procedures commonly used to correct the condition include tendon debridement, tendon transfers, osteotomies (cutting and repositioning of bone) and joint fusions.
There are several things you can do to prevent pain on the bottom of the foot. Here are some tips to help you avoid this condition. Do simple stretches each day (See Plantar Fasciitis Exercises for a list of all exercises). Wear good shoes that fit properly and are appropriate for the activity you are participating in. Lose excess weight if possible. Build your stamina slowly, especially with new exercises. Rest and elevate your feet, whenever possible, keeping them at least twelve inches above your heart. Always follow your doctor?s instructions for treatment. Each day do a different activity. For example: one day ride your bike, and swim the next day.
Calf Stretching in Bed. As you may already know, the first few steps out of bed in the morning can be the worst of the day. Those first few steps can be enough to reaggravate your condition putting you into a cycle of inflammation and pain. The best way to help break that cycle is to stretch your calf before taking those first steps in the morning. When the muscles in your calf are tight, they pull on the heel bone, making your plantar fascia very taut and prone to injury. To help loosen those muscles, take a towel or belt and loop it around the ball of your foot. Keeping your leg straight, gently pull towards your body until you feel a stretch in the lower part of your leg. Hold that for 30 seconds and repeat up to 5 times before taking your first step out of bed. Plantar Fascia Stretching. Loosening up the tissues that are irritated probably makes sense to you, but you may not know how to do so. Luckily, there?s a very simple way. All you have to do is pull your toes up with your hand until you feel a stretch along the ball of your foot. You may feel the stretch anywhere from the ball of your foot to your heel. Holding this position for 30 seconds a few times can make a world of difference in your pain levels. Calf Stretching. I know, it probably seems like overkill, but stretching out the muscles in the lower leg is an integral step to recovery. There are two main muscles in the lower leg that attach to the heel, so we?ll work on stretching them both out. Stand against a wall and slide one leg back, pushing the heel down towards the floor (first picture). When you feel a stretch in the lower part of your leg, hold it for 30 seconds. After those 30 seconds are up, bend your knees until a deeper stretch is felt a bit lower in the leg (second photo). Again, hold this stretch for 30 seconds and repeat this until you?ve done it 3 times on each leg. Who doesn?t love a good massage? I suppose you could pay for someone to rub out the tissues in the bottom of your foot, but if you?re looking for a cheaper alternative, look no further than the humble tennis ball. Placing a tennis ball on the ground and gently rolling it under foot for a few minutes can help loosen up your plantar fascia, making it much less likely to become irritated. Put enough pressure on the ball to get a deep massage. You may feel some soreness, but back off if you feel any pain.Tennis Ball Massage While using the tennis ball is great for keeping things loose, sometimes it?s worth doing some icing at the same time for some inflammation control. Freezing a water bottle and rolling it under your foot for 10 minutes at the end of the day can be a very effective way to keep inflammation in check while staying loose. It might not be the most comfortable thing in the world, but ?Brrr? is better than ?Ouch? any day. One thing to keep in mind is that while these tips have been proven to work, they?re not an instant fix. It can take a few weeks of consistency with them before your pain levels begin to change. If you?re not seeing any improvement after making an honest effort, it may be time to look into some different treatment methods with your doctor such as formal PT, orthotics, a weight-loss plan, or others.