During childhood, usually between the ages of 3 and 10, we develop a space (arch) on the inner side of our feet where the bottom of the foot is off the ground. People with a low arch or who have no arch are classified as having flat feet, sometimes referred to as having "fallen arches".
Flat feet can run in families, and both feet are usually affected. Occasionally, flat feet are due to a problem in the way the foot forms in the womb, in this situation, the feet are stiff and flat and the problem is usually noticeable during childhood. Another form of the problem is when the foot has a tendency to roll inwards too much while standing or walking. This can be due to weak ligaments in the heel joint or at the base of the big toe. "Pronation" or "over-pronated foot" is a term for excessive rolling of the feet. While over-pronated feet usually develop in childhood it can sometimes develop in adulthood. Flat feet may develop due to a ruptured tendon (which is rare), tear of the spring ligament (also rare), arthritis, nerve damage due to diabetes, or injury which leads to stiffness and distortion of the joints of the feet. Conditions of the nervous system or muscles including cerebral palsy, spina bifida or muscular dystrophy can cause flat feet as they can cause muscle weakness or lack of movement in the muscles. These conditions lead to feet becoming stiff which gets worse as the condition develops. Other contributing factors include shoes which limit toe movement such as high heels (walking barefoot may have a protective effect). Tight Achilles tendon or calf muscles can make you more prone to flat feet. Obesity also can contribute to flat feet.
When is treatment needed?
Most flat feet do not cause any problem so no treatment is needed. Reasons to look for treatment include pain (not eased by any type of foot wear). Pain from flat feet can occur in a number of areas including inside the ankle, at arch of the foot, the outer-side of the foot, calf, knee, hip or back. Other reasons for treatment include wearing out shoes quickly, feet appear to be getting flatter, feet tire easily, swelling on the inside bottom of feet, feet are stiff and lack of feeling in the feet or weakness.
Your local Chiropody Service
Our Chiropodist James Pedley can also advise on flat feet in adults and children; to book his clinic for adults or children call 04493 34591. His Clinics is every Tuesday and Thursday at Whelehans Pharmacy Pearse St.
To be continued…. next week I discuss treatment
For comprehensive and free health advice and information call in to Whelehans, log on to www.whelehans.ie or dial 04493 34591 (Pearse St) or 04493 10266 (Clonmore). Find us on Facebook.
This article is shortened to fit within Newspaper space limits. More detailed information and leaflets is available in Whelehans