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Flat Feet Explained

The Earth is populated with over 7 billion unique human beings. It is only natural that there are going to be many variances when it comes to body structures. One common example of a body structure that can differ from person to person is the foot arch. There are basically three styles—low, moderate, and high—and each can affect gait patterns in different ways.

At Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists, we sometimes have to treat patients for difficulties or problems that arise on account of flat feet.

Identifying Your Arch Style

From a bird’s eye view, it can be tough to identify your particular arch style. Flat, moderate, and high arches all look similar from the top, so another approach is needed. There are two easy ways to determine whether or not you have low arches:

  • Take the “wet test.” Wet the bottom of your foot in a water and take a normal step onto dry pavement or a thick piece of paper. If the print is roughly the same width all the way along its length, you likely have low arches. A moderate arch would only leave about half the width of the foot in the print between the heel and forefoot.
  • Examine your shoes. Check out the bottoms of shoes you wear often and take note of the wear patterns. If your feet are flat, there will typically be excessive wear along the inside edges, especially in the heel and ball of foot areas.

Pronation and Flat Feet

Your feet undergo a natural inward rolling motion with every step. As a foot rolls, the arch flattens out to help distribute the tremendous force load that comes with taking a step. The roll continues throughout the entire process of the foot making contact with the ground. For a neutral foot arch, the roll is about fifteen percent, but those who have low arches roll beyond this amount in a gait abnormality known as overpronation.

Common Issues

While the majority of cases are simply inherited foot structures, other factors can cause this arch abnormality. These include diabetes, aging, rheumatoid arthritis, traumatic injury, and pregnancy. No matter the root cause, low arches can lead to pain in the feet, ankles, knees hips, and lower back, usually caused by overpronation.

Tibialis posterior tendonitis is rather common for patients who have fallen arches. In this particular condition, the tibialis posterior tendon has become inflamed, torn, and/or excessively stretched, which can lead to chronic pain or severe disability.

Orthotics and Treatment

As we look at the common treatment options for flat feet, you will see that most are nonsurgical, including:

  • Orthotic devices and arch supports. Our office can provide custom orthotics, which are medical devices created especially for a patient’s unique feet, to provide arch support and reduce painful symptoms.
  • Low-impact exercises. Flat feet can become overworked from high-impact activities. To prevent this from becoming an issue, we may recommend swapping out high-impact exercises for low-impact ones like swimming or cycling in your workout program.
  • Stretching exercises. Along with low-impact activities, stretches are also often quite effective. Shortened Achilles tendons are frequently seen in patients who have low arches, so keeping the tendon limber is especially helpful.
  • Proper footwear. Choosing structurally-supportive footwear makes a difference in reducing issues from overpronation. If you aren’t sure which shoes will work best with your particular arch style, enlist the help of an employee at a shop that caters to runners.

Conservative methods are typically successful at relieving painful symptoms, but surgery is necessary in rare cases. If this applies to you, we will discuss the matter and allow you to review all of your options ahead of time. Our goal is to ensure that you are able to make a confident decision.

Treatment for Painful Flat Feet in Austin, TX

If your feet are not causing any issues, then you don’t need treatment. In cases where low arches result in pain or interfere with your ability to do favorite activities, Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists is ready to provide the expert care you need. Contact our Austin, TX podiatrist office by calling (512) 328-8900 or schedule an appointment online today.