The human body is comprised of a variety of structures that are essentially the same for everyone, but still have room for variances across the general population. One such example of this is the shape of your foot arches. There are widely regarded as being three types of arches: medium, high, and low (also typically referred to as “flat feet”). Those who have low arches will sometimes experience various symptoms of a flatfoot condition and may require treatment for the condition.
Symptoms of Flat Feet
Flat feet can result in a variety of problems and difficulty for your feet, including pain, swelling, difficulty moving, and fatigue. In addition to those issues that arise in the lower extremities, back and leg pain may also result from flat feet and fallen arches.
Foot arches have an effect on your biomechanics when you run, particularly with regard to pronation styles. Pronation refers to the way your foot rolls during the transition from the heel landing on the ground through the final push off the ground with your toes. Someone with a medium arch will have a neutral, natural pronation that does not impact their gait in a negative manner.
Those who have flat feet, however, are more likely to overpronate, which means that the feet roll inwards too much. This causes leg bones to rotate inwards and create stress and pain for ankles, knees, and hips. It also places excessive stress and pressure on the inner, front edge of the foot. For this reason, overpronation can potentially cause—and definitely exacerbates—toe deformities like bunions.
Flat feet treatment is usually centered on conservative, nonsurgical options. At-home care can entail stretching exercises centered on the Achilles tendon and wearing structurally supportive shoes that are designed for people with low arch height. Anderson Foot and Ankle may prescribe customized orthotics—medical devices crafted specifically to fit the contours of your feet—that will provide structure and improve your biomechanics.
Surgery may be required, but only in severe cases of pain or foot damage. In these rare instances, there are several different procedures that can potentially help the situation, including arthrodesis (fusing bones), osteotomy (modifying bone shape), and tendon transfer.
Testing Your Arch
If you aren’t sure which of the three types of arches you have, there is a fairly simple way of testing to determine this. To do so:
- Get a shallow pan that can comfortably fit your foot and put enough water in it to completely cover the bottom. Then place it on the ground.
- Step in the pan and then step on a flat surface that will show your footprint, like a concrete walkway or a sheet of paper on the ground. Make sure you use a natural step when doing so.
- Take a step back and look at the print. If you see an outline of your complete bottom foot, then you likely have flat feet. If your arch is medium or normal, the heel and forefoot areas will be connected by a strip that is about half the width of your foot. For a high arch, that strip will be either very thin or even nonexistent in extreme cases.
This testing is more accurate for adults than young children, since many have a condition called flexible flat feet. This simply means that feet look flat when a child stands, but a slight arch appears when the child is no longer standing. Children will typically grow out of this condition.
When You Need Expert Care
If you need flat feet treatment due to pain or discomfort that is caused by this condition, Anderson Foot and Ankle is here for you. You can connect with our Salt Lake City office by calling (801) 269-9939, or take a moment to use our online form. Either way, one of our staff members will be happy to answer any questions, provide additional information, or help set up your appointment with us!