The arch is an efficient support shape. It holds up bridges and cathedral ceilings—and your body. The arches in your feet allow for your weight to be distributed evenly between the ball, middle, and heel, so you can stand balanced. Like in a bridge or cathedral, if the arch starts to cave, the foot structure weakens, bones slide out of alignment, and other parts of the body lose their support.
The Fallen Arch
Adult Acquired Flatfoot occurs when the arch of your foot collapses after your skeleton has stopped growing, usually resulting in the foot “falling” inward with the toes pointing out. This allows your entire sole to touch the ground when you stand, instead of just the outside area. Arches fall for many reasons, including arthritis, injury to the supporting tendons or bones, nerve problems, diabetic collapse, pregnancy, aging, and obesity. A fallen arch doesn’t have to be painful—though as it develops and worsens, it can lead to strain and weakness in the feet that could allow for more uncomfortable foot problems later. Diabetics can develop serious complications from their fallen arches, and need to have their condition evaluated and treated. The doctors of Advanced Foot and Ankle Specialists of Arizona examine your flatfoot thoroughly to determine what treatment will best support your foot.
Why Does it Matter?
Just as a damaged arch on a bridge weakens the entire thing by forcing other parts of the structure to hold extra weight, adult flatfoot forces other parts of your feet to carry extra weight, instead of distributing it evenly to the strongest areas. Even if it’s not painful, it pulls the bones in your ankles out of alignment, which destabilizes the knees and the back. That makes those joints and muscles work harder to keep the body upright and balanced, and can cause extra wear and tear in all those places.
Where Does it Hurt?
Not everyone with adult flatfoot has problems with pain. Those who do usually experience it around the ankle or in the heel. The pain is usually worse with activity, like walking or standing for extended periods. Sometimes, if the condition develops from arthritis in the foot, bony spurs along the top and side of the foot develop and make wearing shoes more painful. Diabetic patients need to watch for swelling or large lumps in the feet, as they may not notice any pain. They are also at higher risk for developing significant deformities from their flatfoot.
Buttressing the Feet
When the cathedral walls and ceilings became too heavy for arches alone to support, the architects built buttresses to hold the walls up from the outside. Many treatments for adult acquired flatfoot are conservative remedies that work like buttresses for your feet. They help hold your arch from the outside, keeping it in place and relieving the strain on the rest of the foot and ankle. Braces, orthotic inserts, and supportive shoes maintain the foot’s proper alignment. Strengthening exercises can help the muscles in the legs to better support the arch’s shape. Surgery is a last resort solution, used mainly if pain is persistent and conservative care has not helped, or to correct a tear in a ligament or tendon that may have caused the collapse in the first place.
Adult acquired flatfoot does not have to be a painful or lifestyle-changing condition. With the help of our expert podiatrists, a fallen arch can be aided by shoe changes and other conservative treatments. Complications and weakness can be easily prevented from ever becoming a problem, but only if your arches are cared for. If you’re concerned that you may have developed adult acquired flatfoot, or already have arch pain, don’t put off contacting the Advanced Foot and Ankle Specialists of Arizona—visit the contact page on the website, or contact one of their two conveniently located offices: (480) 963-9000, (480) 963-0375 (Fax) for the office in Chandler, or (480) 981-1800, (480) 981-0229 (Fax) for the office in Gilbert.