You may not think much about them, but your arches play a significant role in how you stand and walk. Just as an architectural arch supports bridges or buildings by transferring forces along the curve rather than straight down, the arch in your foot helps you distribute your weight more evenly and acts as a shock absorber for impacts.
Many people have especially shallow or even no arch, either because one never developed or due to collapse over time. This condition, called flat feet, is actually quite common. Fortunately, it’s also usually painless and frequently does not require any treatment. However, it might lead to ankle and knee problems due to putting the body out of alignment. If you have flat feet and are dealing with chronic pain, you may want to stop in and see the doctors at Family Foot and Ankle Center.
Do I Have Flat Feet?
Here’s a simple test: get your feet wet (not dripping) and step on a piece of heavy paper, such as a paper shopping bag, or any surface that would allow you to see your footprint. If you can only see about half your arch, you have a medium arch, the most common type. If you can see your entire sole, however, you likely have flat feet.
You can check your shoes for clues, too. If you notice your treads are more worn down on the inside than the outside of your foot, you likely overpronate when you walk, a tell-tale sign of flat arches.
How Did I Get Flat Feet?
In most cases, people with flat feet simply never developed arches as they grew up. Infants and toddlers almost invariable have no arches, or at least those that flatten when bearing weight. Most children eventually develop a rigid arch as they grow up, but some never do. Again, this is normal, albeit not as common as a medium arch.
In some cases, feet flatten out with age due to an injury or wear and tear, as tendons weaken and can no longer support the curvature of your sole. The chances of acquiring this condition later in life increase with age if you’re overweight or suffering from arthritis, or if you’ve suffered an injury to the area.
What Should I Do?
If you aren’t experiencing any pain, you might not have to do anything. Many people live healthy, active, comfortable lives with shallow arches. If it’s not bothering you, don’t worry about it.
However, if you’ve noticed swelling or are experiencing foot, ankle, knee, leg, or even back pain that you just can’t figure out, it’s possible that flat feet are part of the problem. That’s because this foot type can lead to overpronation (feet rolling too far inward when you stride) and throw other joints out of alignment in the process. Overpronaters may also be more susceptible to certain overuse injuries from running, as well.
If you are experiencing difficulties and we determine flat feet are a contributing factor, there are a number of possible remedies. You may only need a pair of shoes designed specifically for your pronation style—we can help you find out what that might be. Over-the-counter arch supports or custom orthotics can add extra support and cushioning and put your body into better alignment, as well as correct issues with your gait leading to painful symptoms.
Sometimes stretches and physical therapy can be effective in minimizing discomfort and preparing your feet for activity, especially for those with a shorter-than-usual Achilles. Some lifestyle changes can also help limit pain—keeping your weight under control reduces the pressure on your soles, as well as selecting more low-impact activities (walking, cycling, swimming, weight training, elliptical, etc.) for your exercise regimen.
Surgery is generally not recommended unless you have a related problem that requires it—for example, a ruptured or torn tendon.
If sagging arches have you suffering, call Family Foot and Ankle Center right away. Let our experienced podiatrists evaluate your condition and walk you through the most effective treatment procedure for your situation. Dial (513) 728-4800 or (859) 282-1572, or use our online contact form, and schedule an appointment at one of our six Cincinnati-area offices.