Are you flatfoot? You must have heard people talking about several difficulties a flatfooted person may face in running, walking, or other physical activities. However, having a flat foot is not necessarily a problem. Being a flatfoot is not like suffering from a disease. Many people live an entire life without any issues. However, a collapsed arch means that the arch is losing height or has lost height and is now a flatfoot. This is not normal and is easy to prevent.
What is flatfoot?
People with flat feet have a very low arch or no arch at all. There is a possibility of having only one foot flat also. Our foot has 33 joints which hold 26 bones together along with over 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments. The bones are held in such a way that there is a gap in the inner part of the foot when a person stands, which is the arch of the foot. This arch provides a spring action to step and help distribute body weight across the feet and leg. Since our foot goes under immense stress while walking or running, we require it to be sturdy and flexible.
In a flatfooted person, the arch is almost flat and hence the spring has no place to further expand on stress and contract on relief. This makes the feet roll to the inner side while walking or running. This is known as over-pronation.
Difference between flatfoot and collapsed arch
A flatfooted person has extremely low or no arch while sitting, standing, or running. However, if a person has a collapsing arch, it means that the person has an arch when the foot is not under stress, however, as soon as a person stands, the arch collapses under stress. Hence it is very easy to determine by physical inspection if you are flatfoot or are suffering from a collapsed arch.
Causes of a collapsed arch
The posterior tibial tendon runs from inside of the ankle. It helps the foot to fall in the right position so that the Achilles tendon takes the stress and powers the step. To achieve that, it pulls the arch slightly high so that the foot remains rigid and only under stress ligaments and tendons are stretched and joints do not face undue stress. In the case of a collapsed arch, the tibial tendon becomes weak and is unable to hold the arch up. With time if we do not take corrective action, the arch collapses completely even without stress leading to being flatfoot.
How to treat flatfoot or collapsed arch
Flatfoot is not a disease and hence no treatment is required unless you are suffering from some issue or problem. As a precaution though there are some basic exercises which one can do to ensure the health of the foot. This is more applicable for runners and walkers (both hobby as well as professionals). Remember as we age, we tend to become flatfoot, or our arch height decreases. This is because of the weakening of muscles.
Collapsed arch needs immediate attention. It involves strengthening calf muscles and increasing the tibial tendon rigidity and flexibility. One can reduce pain or inflammation as immediate treatment by applying ice, using compression clothing, and taking NSAIDs as recommended by a doctor. However long-term solution requires exercises to strengthen the muscle group, especially posterior calf muscle. These exercises are common for the collapsed arch, people facing issues because of being flatfooted, or although being asymptomatic flatfooted but want to take precautions.
We will bring these exercises in our next blog on flatfoot.
Other flatfoot conditions
People who are obese or have diabetes are more prone to flatfoot. Flatfoot is normal during pregnancy. Generally, children and infants appear to have flatfoot. But that is because the arch is yet to develop and extra fat on an infant’s foot hides whatever arch has developed. If the flatfoot is because of the tarsal coalition which is a bone deformity, it makes feet stiff and flat. This condition is generally diagnosed in childhood itself and requires surgery to treat.