Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Caring for Flat Feet

Flat feet are among the most common of foot conditions. You know you have flat feet when the arches of your feet are flat so that when you are standing the sole of your foot completely touches the floor. Flat feet may be caused by the arches not developing during childhood, the result of injury or develop due to nothing more than wear and tear and the stresses of age on the feet. In most cases the condition is painless and does not have any significant impact on mobility. If the condition causes no pain or discomfort, treatment is normally not required. However, in some cases flat feet can lead to ankle and knee problems because the flat arches distort the alignment of the legs. There are two basic types of flat feet- flexible and rigid. A flexible flat foot condition is when the foot look normal when there is no weight on it and become flat only when a person is standing up. A rigid flat foot is flat even when no weight is placed on it. Flexible flat feet are the more common.

Living With Flat Feet

While flat feet do not normally need any treatment, there are a few things that can be done to ensure that the problem is not exacerbated and that mobility is not affected.
  • Stretching. Tight calf muscle are a leading cause of flat feet. The tightness of the muscle causes abnormal force to be exerted on the feet which can cause the arch to collapse. The medical term for this condition is Equinus. A program of stretching exercises to loosen the calf muscle can alleviate the condition. No special equipment is needed and the exercises can be done anywhere at any time. A podiatrist will be able to define the specific exercises that will be best as well as advise if Yoga or other exercise regimens will be of help.
  • Strengthening the arch. The foot is made up of numerous muscles. The ones that originate and terminate in the feet are called intrinsic muscles. Most of these muscles are on the bottom of the feet. People with flat feet typically have weak or poorly developed intrinsic muscles  and a program that will strengthen them will provide increased support for the arches and reduce any effects on mobility that the flat feet may cause. While here too a podiatrist will be able to advise on what specific exercise will be best, even simple ones like trying to pick up marbles or other small objects or even pieces of cloth with the foot will help.
  • Shoe inserts. Inserts that support the arches, or orthotics, can relieve the pressure on the arch when weight is placed on them. The supports help to align the bones and reduce the strain that would otherwise be placed on the muscles and ligaments.
  • Walking barefoot. Although this may seem to be in contradiction to the need for orthotics and extra support for the arches, it is not so. Within limits, walking with the feet bare can strengthen the muscles of the  feet and this may both relieve the pressure on the arches as well as improve stability.
If the condition is a very severe one that limits mobility and / or affects the quality of life, then surgery may have to be considered. There are various surgical options available including the use of an implant to support the bones of the arches, tendon transfers or joint fusions. A surgeon will decide on the right procedure after making a thorough examination of the feet.

As already stated, generally speaking flat feet requires not treatment. But if the condition is causing any pain or affecting mobility, a podiatrist should be consulted without delay.

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