Pes planus is the scientific term that describes low arch or "flat" feet. As podiatric physicians, we are very interested not only in structure but also in function of the feet. While very few people have 20-20 vision, it is also true that very few people have perfect arch structure. High and low arch feet are just the two ends of the spectrum of foot structure. The more deviation from what is considered perfect, the worse the function becomes. We describe deviation from "the ideal" as imbalance in structure. It is the imbalance in structure that leads to abnormal function. Abnormal function causes pain and/or deformity. Deformity can manifest itself in a variety of foot problems such as bunions or hammertoes. Likewise, pain can manifest itself in a variety of ways such as heel pain ( plantar fasciitis or heel spur), corns or calluses, metatarsalgia or pain in the ball of the foot ( neuromas, stress fractures, or tendonitis), or even in pediatric problems. Invariably, we can treat most foot imbalance or biomechanical insufficiencies with orthotic therapy.
Flatfoot can have many different causes. It could be a weakness or a structural abnormality you?ve had since birth. It could also mean that tendonitis, damage to the connective tissues, arthritis, or nerve problems have affected the structures in your feet. Even wearing unsupportive footwear can lead to weakness and arch pain. Whatever the cause, many conservative, noninvasive treatments exist to help relieve and eliminate your discomfort.
Common symptoms of plantar fasciitis include pain in the morning when you first get out of bed, pain and stiffness when you start to walk after sitting for a while, increasing arch or heel pain toward the end of the day, tired feet at the end of the day. Other causes of arch and heel pain include arthritis, infection, fractures and sprains, and even certain systemic diseases. Since there are multiple possible causes, you should see your podiatrist for a thorough evaluation if you are experiencing arch or heel pain that does not respond quickly to early treatment.
The adult acquired flatfoot, secondary to posterior tibial tendon dysfunction, is diagnosed in a number of ways with no single test proven to be totally reliable. The most accurate diagnosis is made by a skilled clinician utilizing observation and hands on evaluation of the foot and ankle. Observation of the foot in a walking examination is most reliable. The affected foot appears more pronated and deformed compared to the unaffected foot. Muscle testing will show a strength deficit. An easy test to perform in the office is the single foot raise.
Non Surgical Treatment
Posterior tibial tendon dysfunction is a common cause of fallen arches in adults. The tendon runs along the bottom of the foot and up the back of the ankle, connecting to the tibialis posterior muscle in the calf. The posterior tibial tendon is an important support for the foot arch. Overuse, inflammation and tears of the tendon may cause progressive foot and ankle pain and the development of flat feet. The American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons states that an ankle brace, leg cast or removable boot may be used to temporarily immobilize the posterior tibial tendon, facilitating healing. Physical therapy typically follows immobilization to strengthen the foot and restore normal foot structure and function.
If you have pain that has not been responsive to other treatments, there is a new non-surgical treatment that was recently approved by the FDA. ESWT (extracorporeal shockwave therapy) uses strong electrohydraulic acoustic (sound) energy that triggers the body?s natural repair mechanism. This treatment method is safe, effective and requires a very short recovery period compared to older surgical techniques.
The best way to prevent plantar fasciitis is to wear shoes that are well made and fit your feet. This is especially important when you exercise, walk a lot, or stand for a long time on hard surfaces. Get new athletic shoes before your old shoes stop supporting and cushioning your feet. You should also avoid repeated jarring to the heel. Maintain a healthy weight. Stretch when you feel a tightening of the ligament that runs along the bottom of your foot. Stop impact sports when symptoms first occur.
Plantar Fasciitis stretches can be incorporated into a comprehensive treatment regime which may involve: ice, heel wedge support, taping, massage, muscle strengthening, orthotic inserts for shoes, topical anti inflammatory gel or oral medication and/or corticosteroid injections. If you suspect you may have Plantar Fasciitis seek accurate diagnosis and treatment from a health professional to ensure a correct diagnosis and reduce the likelihood of developing chronic foot pain. Treatment interventions may be provided by your Physical Therapist, Podiatrist and/or doctor.