In a normal foot, the tendons in your foot and lower leg work together to form the arch. When the tendons all pull properly, your foot forms a moderate, normal arch. When the tendons do not pull together properly, there is little or no arch, called flat foot or fallen arch. Children are born with flat feet. In infants and toddlers, prior to walking, the longitudinal arch is not developed and flat feet are normal. As children begin standing on their toes, the muscles start to develop and an arch appears. The arch continues to develop throughout childhood, and by adulthood most people have developed normal arches. But in some cases the arch doesn?t form completely.
Flat feet are a common condition. In infants and toddlers, the arch is not developed and flat feet are normal. The arch develops in childhood. By adulthood, most people have developed normal arches. When flat feet persist, most are considered variations of normal. Most feet are flexible and an arch appears when the person stands on his or her toes. Stiff, inflexible, or painful flat feet may be associated with other conditions and require attention. Painful flat feet in children may be caused by a condition called tarsal coalition. In tarsal coalition, two or more of the bones in the foot fuse together. This limits motion and often leads to a flat foot. Most flat feet do not cause pain or other problems. Flat feet may be associated with pronation, in which the ankle bones lean inward toward the center line. When the shoes of children who pronate are placed side by side, they will lean toward each other (after they have been worn long enough for the foot position to remodel their sole). Foot pain, ankle pain, or lower leg pain (especially in children) may be a result of flat feet and should be evaluated by a health care provider. Adults can develop a flat foot when they are 60 - 70 years old. This type of flat foot is usually on one side.
Flat feet may not cause any symptoms at all. Rigid flat feet may cause pain, calluses, blisters, or skin redness on the inner side of the foot. A stiff foot, weakness or numbness of the foot, Rapid wearing out of shoes-worn shoes lean in toward each other. Difficulty or pain with activities like running-in the foot, knee or hip.
An examination of the foot is enough for the health care provider to diagnose flat foot. However, the cause must be determined. If an arch develops when the patient stands on his or her toes, the flat foot is called flexible and no treatment or further work-up is necessary. If there is pain associated with the foot or if the arch does not develop with toe-standing, x-rays are necessary. If a tarsal coalition is suspected, a CT scan is often ordered. If a posterior tibial tendon injury is suspected, your health care provider may recommend an MRI.
Non Surgical Treatment
In rare cases, surgery may be needed if a child has flat feet caused by a problem they're born with (a congenital abnormality). The foot may need to be straightened or the bones may need to be separated if they're fused together. Painkillers and insoles are the first treatment options for flat feet that are caused by a joint problem, such as arthritis or a torn tendon. However, surgery may be recommended if the injury or condition is severely affecting your feet. Where flat feet are caused by a condition that affects the nervous system, special shoes, insoles, or supportive foot or leg braces may be needed. Again, in severe cases, an operation may be needed to straighten the feet.
In cases of flat feet that have progressed substantially or have failed to improve with non-surgical treatment, surgery may be required and in some advanced cases, surgery may be the only option. Your foot and ankle surgeon will determine the best approach for you.
Patients may go home the day of surgery or they may require an overnight hospital stay. The leg will be placed in a splint or cast and should be kept elevated for the first two weeks. At that point, sutures are removed. A new cast or a removable boot is then placed. It is important that patients do not put any weight on the corrected foot for six to eight weeks following the operation. Patients may begin bearing weight at eight weeks and usually progress to full weightbearing by 10 to 12 weeks. For some patients, weightbearing requires additional time. After 12 weeks, patients commonly can transition to wearing a shoe. Inserts and ankle braces are often used. Physical therapy may be recommended. There are complications that relate to surgery in general. These include the risks associated with anesthesia, infection, damage to nerves and blood vessels, and bleeding or blood clots. Complications following flatfoot surgery may include wound breakdown or nonunion (incomplete healing of the bones). These complications often can be prevented with proper wound care and rehabilitation. Occasionally, patients may notice some discomfort due to prominent hardware. Removal of hardware can be done at a later time if this is an issue. The overall complication rates for flatfoot surgery are low.