What are flat feet?
Flat feet simply refer to the arch falling so that the entire bottom of the foot comes into complete or near contact with the ground. It can develop in one or both feet. Some people develop this foot deformity later in life, while others are born with it.
All babies are born with flat feet. Newborns have fat pads located in the soles of their feet and front of the heel. This makes their feet look flat. As they get older the muscles located in the feet gradually become stronger which causes the fat to disappear, leaving an arch. If the arch hasn’t developed by the time the child is around 6 years old, it’s most likely they will continue to have flat feet for the rest of their lives.
What causes flat feet?
Many things can cause flat feet. They can either be inherited or develop from a condition like arthritis, diabetes or stroke. They may also develop later in life. On average, an American takes 8,000 to 10,000 steps a day. Walking on hard surfaces like tile or pavement puts pressure on the feet. As we walk or run our feet must support as much as four times our body weight. Over the years, this weight can take a toll on the feet causing the arches to collapse. Wearing improper footwear can speed up the development of flat feet. Always wear the correct shoes for each activity.
How do I know if I have flat feet?
Many people who have flat feet don’t have any symptoms or problems. However, some may develop pain because of:
- Work environment changes
- Gaining weight or being obese
- Walking, standing, jumping or running for extended periods of time
- Footwear that doesn’t fit properly
Another way to tell if your feet are flat is to take the footprint test. First dip your feet in water or some other form of liquid. Next, walk on cardboard and make sure you that you can clearly see your footprint. If you see a noticeable curve inward, but not greater than ¾ of an inch, your feet are normal. If the entire foot shows, and there is no curve from your big toe to your heel, then you have flat feet. If the toe and heel show with a very distinct curve, you could have high arches.
How are flat feet corrected?
The most common way to treat flat feet is to wear comfortable, roomy shoes that have good arch support. Your podiatrist may also recommend a heel cup or padding like orthotics. The good news is surgery is rarely needed.
Doing stretches to strengthen your feet may also help to relieve the pain. Stretch out your calf muscles and your feet. The first stretch you can try is the “towel curl.” Grab a towel or something similar like a t-shirt, and sit on a chair with both feet lying flat on top of one end of the towel. Grab the towel with the toes of one of your feet and then curl your toes back, pulling the towel towards you. As your feet become stronger you can place a weight at one end of the towel for more resistance. Another stretch to try is the “towel stretch.” Again, grab a towel then sit down on the floor with your feet in front of you. Roll up the towel then loop it over one of your feet. Gently pull the towel towards your body until the front of your foot feels a nice stretch.
If strengthening your feet and changing your footwear doesn’t work, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), massages or heat may help with the discomfort.
Are your flat feet painful? The foot specialists at Aadvanced Foot Care Associates in New York can help. Call any of our three offices so we can get you on your way to having pain-free feet again!