What Issues Can Flat Feet Cause?

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What Issues Can Flat Feet Cause?

Flat feet might not sound serious, but without proper treatment, they can wind up causing chronic foot pain and other health issues, too. Here, learn how flat feet can affect your quality of life and what we can do to help.

Flat feet is a surprisingly common problem that happens when the normally curved bottom of the foot is flat or nearly flat. Researchers estimate that as many as 37% of Americans suffer from some degree of flat feet, with many cases beginning during childhood. 

In kids, flat feet happen when the arch is slow to develop. In most cases, childhood flat feet correct themselves naturally by the time adolescence arrives. Flat feet in adults either continue from childhood or develop during adulthood, a condition commonly referred to as fallen arches.

At Alpine Foot and Ankle, Dr. Andrew McCall and our team treat flat feet with custom therapies focused on improving painful symptoms and stabilizing foot function. Here, learn why flat feet happen, what symptoms they cause, and how we can help you feel better.

Flat feet 101

Composed of bones, ligaments, and tendons, your foot arch is designed to support normal function while providing stability when standing or moving. Naturally flexible, your arch absorbs shocks and helps your feet stay “springy.”

As noted, kids with flat feet typically “outgrow” the condition as their bones and other tissues develop. In fact, kids almost always have flat feet when they’re born

Acquired flat feet — or fallen arches — happen for different reasons. Some people inherit a foot shape or walking style that increases their risk of developing flat feet, but other conditions can also increase your risk, including:

  • Traumatic foot injuries
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Pregnancy
  • High blood pressure
  • Achilles tendon injuries
  • Arthritis
  • Muscle or nervous system diseases

Flat feet can also be caused by tarsal coalition, a condition that happens when two or more foot bones fuse together in an abnormal way.

The painful effects of flat feet

Your feet support the entire weight of your body, so it makes sense that when something’s amiss with either one or both feet, you can wind up experiencing a lot of different symptoms. Flat feet cause a host of issues that can take a toll on routine activities, like walking, climbing stairs, and even standing still.

Foot pain

Flat feet affect the way you walk, causing gait abnormalities that place extra strain on your foot tendons, and ligaments. Over time, these changes in your walking pattern can lead to other foot problems, like bunions, corns, or calluses. 

Joint wear and tear

Uneven foot strain can put extra pressure on your joints, causing painful misalignments and increasing wear and tear on the joint surfaces. Over time, this can lead to painful arthritis and mobility problems.

Balance problems

Your arches play a major role in keeping you stable while you’re on your feet. When your arches are flat, it’s harder for your body to achieve that balance, increasing your risks of falls and sprains and interfering with some physical activities.

Muscle fatigue

As part of your foot’s support system, your arches distribute weight across the muscles in your feet and lower legs, too. With flat arches, that distribution changes, leading to fatigue in your feet, ankles, and legs.

Back and knee pain

Painful symptoms aren’t limited to your feet and ankles, either. Because flat feet throw your body out of its normal alignment, you’re more likely to have pain in your knees and lower back, too.

It’s important to note that flat feet don’t always cause symptoms. But even if your feet feel fine now, fallen arches can still cause problems over time. Having an evaluation helps us devise a plan to prevent those problems from ever happening.

Relief for flat feet symptoms

The first step in relieving flat foot-related pain is to schedule an evaluation with our team. During your visit, we examine your feet, your gait pattern, your balance, and other factors that could be contributing to foot pain and related symptoms, so we can develop a treatment plan that’s focused on real, long-lasting relief.

Depending on your symptoms, your foot anatomy, and other factors, we may recommend:

  • Exercises to strengthen your feet and your calf muscles
  • Physical therapy to promote healthy foot function
  • Custom orthotics to support your feet
  • Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicines
  • Ice therapy
  • Weight loss

When these treatments don’t provide meaningful relief, Dr. McCall may recommend surgery to “rebuild” your arches, relieving pain and restoring stability and function.

If you have foot pain, don’t ignore it. To learn how we can help, request an appointment online or over the phone with Dr. McCall and our team at Alpine Foot and Ankle today.