Flat feet, also called fallen arches, is a condition in which a person has no arch on the bottom of his feet. Where most people's feet are curved on the bottom, a person with flat feet has no curve or arch. This can cause feet to turn inward causing stress on other parts of the body.
You will know you have flat feet if your shoes wear down quickly on the inside. You may also have flat feet if you have lower leg pain, or if your ankle hurts on the inside. You may also notice swelling around your inside ankle and experience pain in your feet. Sometimes back pain is also associated with having flat feet.
Feet are arched thanks to the work of 26 bones, 33 joints, and 100 muscles that work together as springs to absorb the weight of our bodies we walk. Foot arches are formed through childhood but some people never develop foot arches. For other people, time, and excess weight damage the tendon that is the main support for the arch. This tendon is called the posterior tibial tendon. The tendon can tear or become damaged in other ways causing the foot to flatten. Other possible causes for flat feet are a traumatic injury to the foot or ankle, diabetes, aging, arthritis and pregnancy.
Having flat feet can lead to other issues with the foot. You might develop plantar fasciitis causing pain and inflammation in the ligaments of the foot. Tendonitis and and arthritis can result from having flat feet. The lack of shock absorption in the foot could cause shin splints. Bunions and hammertoes are may also result from having flat feet.
If there are problems with the feet, it will eventually lead to problems with the legs. Because people with flat feet pronate or roll their feet inward when the walk, the lower legs will try to accommodate to keep balance. This leads to pain in the ankles, lower legs, and often the knees.
To stop the leg and foot pain it is important to wear arch supports that lift the foot and give you the cushion that your missing arches should. A podiatrist may recommend special arch supports (orthonics) or advise you on over-the-counter foot supports. If a fallen arch is caused by weight gain, losing weight will help alleviate it. For ankle pain and swelling, an ankle brace will help you adjust the way you are walking and alleviate the pain caused by flat feet. If the flat feet are caused by tibial tearing, surgery is used to correct the tear.