Flat feet are one of the more common conditions that podiatrists see in their patients. For some people, flat feet never cause a problem, and they adapt to it without pain or any change in mobility. For many others, however, flat feet cause pain, difficulty with walking, and other problems.
Flat feet are also referred to as fallen arches or collapsed arches. It is a condition when the arched area on the sole of the foot has flattened out and touches the ground when weight is put on the feet. A rigid flat foot is more serious, as the flat foot remains even when you take the weight off the feet. A person with flexible flat feet will see the arch take shape when they don’t have any weight on their feet, or they elevate them.
(6) Six Symptoms of Flat Feet
- Pain in your feet when participating in sports or athletics
- Becoming easily fatigued when on your feet for any length of time
- Painful, aching feet when you stand for short periods
- You don’t have a full range of movement in your foot, making it difficult to stand on toes or rock back on your heels
- Walking or running becomes painful
- You may experience frequent cramping in the soles of the feet and up the leg, causing shin splints
Diagnosing Flat Feet
A visit to a podiatrist should be your first step if you suspect flat feet are causing you problems. The doctor will watch how you walk, examine your feet and ankles, and take a variety of images to more clearly see the inner workings of your foot. These may include x-rays, CT scans, ultrasound and/or an MRI. These tests will reveal any problems in the bone structure, nerves, and surrounding soft tissues and muscles so the doctor can determine the cause of your flat feet. From there, he can then prescribe an appropriate treatment to alleviate your symptoms.
(5) Five Non-Surgical Treatments for Flat Feet
If you suffer pain or limitations due to flat feet, the first courses of action will be non-invasive. These treatments include:
- Exercises for individuals with flat feet caused by shortened Achilles tendons. Over several weeks or months, appropriate exercise can elongate the tendon, bringing greater range of movement.
- Orthotics such as arch supports that slip into an individual’s shoes to minimize pain by providing an artificial arch in the foot. You can purchase over-the-counter arch supports, or you can be a prescription arch support designed for your feet. Foot and ankle braces may also be an option that will help.
- Weight loss may be suggested to patients who are extremely overweight or obese, as carrying the extra weight puts a strain on the feet and flatten the arches even more.
- Physical therapy is often prescribed for individuals whose flat feet contribute to problems running or frequent injuries. A sports medicine specialist may work with the therapist to design a program to improve your performance and technique.
- Medication to alleviate the pain and discomfort of flat feet might include cortisone injections, OTC pain medications, and topical treatments such as lidocaine cream.
Flat Feet Correction Surgery
When other corrective measures haven’t worked, flat feet surgery is an option that can correct the problem in one operation. The ultimate goal of this kind of surgery is to properly align the foot or feet to maximize comfort and support. In many instances, the patient will not only end up being more comfortable; they will be able to walk with better gait and for longer distances.
There are three kinds of flat foot correction surgery currently being done at our locations. A full evaluation of your situation, pain levels, and the severity of the condition will determine which type of surgery will best correct your flat feet. We also take into consideration your age, the stiffness or flexibility of your foot or feet, how severe the condition is, and the need for post-surgical therapy. In many cases, the surgeon will determine that more than one procedure is needed.
Types of Flat Foot Correction
Surgical correction of flat feet may take a variety of forms, including:
- Fusing some of the bones in the ankle and foot together
- Surgery to repair a stretched or torn tendon
- Shaving and reshaping a bone to change its alignment
- Replacing or lengthening a tendon by replacing it a section from another tendon
What You Can Expect During Flat Foot Correction Surgery
Depending on how severe the surgery is, it can be performed successfully under full anesthesia if necessary. Many of these surgeries, however, can be done using regional anesthesia that numbs the ankle and foot while you remain awake.
While most patients have flat foot surgery done as an outpatient, other patients may have to stay overnight for observation. After the surgery, a splint or cast is applied to immobilize the area. You’ll have to keep your foot elevated for at least two weeks. After sutures come out, a removable boot will be put in place. The important thing for patients to remember is that they MUST NOT put any weight on the foot for 6-8 weeks after surgery. Gradually, weight-bearing movement can be added over the next several weeks. Three months after surgery, most individuals can walk in regular shoes or shoes with orthopedic inserts or braces. Physical therapy is the last step in the healing process in order to regain strength and range of movement in the foot and ankle.
While flat foot surgery can seem intimidating and will interfere with your daily life for a few months, it is worth it for anyone who experiences unremitting pain in the feet and ankles due to flat feet. Because it is a surgical correction, the results are permanent, so you won’t have to continue with treatments after the recovery period of over. Instead, you can once again walk, run, and stand for hours on your own two feet with no discomfort.
If you would like to learn more about flat foot surgery and whether it is the right choice for you, please call (718) 873-3174 to schedule a consultation at one of our six locations in the Queens, Brooklyn and NYC areas. We want you to be walking in comfort, and flat foot surgery can get you there!