If you’re one of the over 3 million people suffering from flat feet (also known by the slightly more lyrical medical term “pes planus”), you’ve probably remained unaware of your condition until you began experiencing pain in the ankles, foot, or even lower back. A podiatrist can quickly determine if flat feet are causing your foot pain, but let’s understand what flat feet are and how you can treat them.
What Is Flat Feet?
In a typically developed foot, the arch raises slightly off the ground and creates that recognizable footprint pattern we see when bare feet leave wet footprints on the floor. Being flat-footed simply means that your foot’s arches have “fallen,” or remain in contact with the ground—this can be an inherited condition or happen during the aging process.
Normally, flat feet cause only minor issues. Sometimes, though, flat feet cause serious problems and pain. If you’re experiencing pronation (a condition in which one or both of your feet roll inward), or difficulties walking and maintaining physical activity, read on for some excellent treatment options.
Shoe inserts, or orthotics, are an inexpensive and convenient option for easing mild cases of flat feet. Orthotics act as shoe soles and can be purchased over-the-counter or customized for your foot (for severe cases, customization might be the best option). Inserts are often bought once and then switched between different pairs of shoes, making them a cost-efficient choice for minor flat feet troubles. If you don’t find relief with orthotics, check with your podiatrist for a better solution.
Physical therapy for flat feet focuses on strengthening the muscles and ligaments in your lower legs, discouraging feet from rolling inward. You may also learn ways to improve ankle mobility, easing pain and taking pressure off the foot. Another unintentional benefit of physical therapy is its focus on improving our sedentary lifestyles. Being overweight or out of shape can aggravate flat feet and a good physical therapy program will help counter the effects of poor health.
Surgery is the most invasive treatment option available. It is a painful process reserved only for the most advanced flat feet cases. When over-the-counter painkillers, ice therapy, and other conventional treatments fail, surgery may be a realistic choice. However, surgical procedures require many months of recovery and can be financially prohibitive. Talk to your podiatrist before pursuing this option.
Your podiatrist is your go-to source for reliable, current information about flat feet issues and treatment. While it’s tempting to perform a quick Google search and try to correct the problem yourself, a podiatrist consultation not only will provide solutions, but will ease your mind if you have been experiencing anxiety about your overall health. Foot problems range from annoying to debilitating, so treat yourself to a foot exam for a pain-free future.