What are flat feet?
In some people, the natural arch in the inside of the foot can be low or completely absent all together. This results in what is known as a ‘flat foot’. It can cause pain and stiffness in the arch of the foot, as well as in the joints above, including the ankle, knee, hip and spine.
What causes flat feet?
It can be hereditary (something that people are born with) or can develop over time due to arthritis, tendon damage or diseases affecting the nerves or muscles around the foot and ankle. There is also a condition called ‘tarsal coalition’ that causes the malformation of the bones making up the arch of the foot leading to flat feet. This is often diagnosed in childhood.
How are flat feet diagnosed?
Flat feet can be diagnosed on clinical examination with a foot and ankle specialist, however further investigations may be needed if an underlying cause is suspected. Ultrasound scans can be used to look at soft tissues like tendons, and x-rays can be used to assess if there are any bony malformations or joint disease like arthritis.
Treatment and recovery
Lots of people with flat feet have no symptoms and do not require any treatment. However, where flat feet are causing problems, interventions such as arch support, appropriate footwear and regular physio-based exercises are usually enough to relieve symptoms and return to normal activities.
There are some specific causes of flat feet that may require more targeted treatments. Specific tendon dysfunction can be managed with specialised physiotherapy, ultrasound-guided steroid injections or biological joint injections.
If none of these strategies relieve the problems associated with flat feet or if there is a bony malformation, then surgery can be considered.