Most flat feet are not painful, particularly those flat feet seen in children. In the adult acquired flatfoot, pain occurs because soft tissues (tendons and ligaments) have been torn. The deformity progresses or worsens because once the vital ligaments and posterior tibial tendon are lost, nothing can take their place to hold up the arch of the foot. The painful, progressive adult acquired flatfoot affects women four times as frequently as men. It occurs in middle to older age people with a mean age of 60 years. Most people who develop the condition already have flat feet. A change occurs in one foot where the arch begins to flatten more than before, with pain and swelling developing on the inside of the ankle. Why this event occurs in some people (female more than male) and only in one foot remains poorly understood. Contributing factors increasing the risk of adult acquired flatfoot are diabetes, hypertension, and obesity.
Flat feet are a common condition. The condition is normal in infants and toddlers. Flat feet occur because the tissues holding the joints in the foot together (called tendons) are loose. The tissues tighten and form an arch as children grow older. This will take place by the time the child is 2 or 3 years old. Most people have normal arches by the time they are adults. However, the arch may never form in some people. Aging, injuries, or illness may harm the tendons and cause flat feet to develop in a person who has already formed arches. This type of flat foot may occur only on one side. Rarely, painful flat feet in children may be caused by a condition in which two or more of the bones in the foot grow or fuse together. This condition is called tarsal coalition.
Experiencing chronic pain of any kind can lead to feelings of fatigue, irritability and even depression. Friends may joke about having 'tired dogs' after a long day, but this is completely different from your experience if arch pain has begun to impact your life on a daily basis. You may dread getting out of bed in the morning and wonder how you're going to get through a work day without having to limp home at the end of it.
Flat feet are easy to identify while standing or walking. When someone with flat feet stands, their inner foot or arch flattens and their foot may roll over to the inner side. This is known as overpronation. To see whether your foot overpronates, stand on tiptoes or push your big toe back as far as possible. If the arch of your foot doesn't appear, your foot is likely to overpronate when you walk or run. It can be difficult to tell whether a child has flat feet because their arches may not fully develop until they're 10 years of age.
Non Surgical Treatment
Tight arches, overpronation and flat feet as well as tight calves all lead to inflammation of the connective tissue that forms this arch of your foot. This condition, plantar fasciitis, can be very painful, from your first step in the morning. Fortunately, treatment is easier than most. No operations, no fancy pulsed waves, no night splints necessary. Good arch supports? full length flexible (not hard) orthotics are key. Stretches of the calf relieve arch tightness as the heel bone acts like a fulcrum pulling back the arch tissues if too tight. Regularly perform the gastroc and soleus stretches that you learned at the gym. If lazy, buy "Pro-Stretch" on line which helps you stretch your calves easily. Use it often. You can't stretch too often, only too little. Finally, the magic cure is to roll a golf ball under the arch for half-hour once a day. (I know; a half-hour is a long time to perform one exercise, but that's what it takes. Once you master this exercise, it is easy to do while you work at your desk or are watching a half hour TV program.) This may hurt the first week. Keep going because by week two, after you go over the pain hump, the pain will be gone.
With flat feet, there is a tendon on the inside of the foot than can often become weakened, injured, split and/or ruptured. This tendon, is called the posterior tibial tendon, and is the main arch supporting tendon. Obviously damage to this tendon can cause collapse of the arch. Some people have genetically inefficient tendon, and tends to be the case in younger people. In mild cases, such as tendon splits, the posterior tibial tendon can be repaired to restore its strength. Acute incontinuity of the tendon can be primarily repaired. Often the posterior tibial tendon is augmented with a tendon transfer of an adjacent tendon to provide both strength and continuity. In any tendon repair, advanced or retensioning of the tendon is performed. In most flat foot surgery a tendon augmentation is often combined with other boney procedures to restore structure and balance to the foot.
Drink plenty of water before, during and after your workout. Dehydration is a common cause of muscle cramps, according to MayoClinic.com. If your workouts are long and strenuous, drink a carbohydrate-based electrolyte beverage too. Warm up the muscles of your feet before you work out. A simple exercise is to write the letters of the alphabet with your toes. Perform the warm up with bare feet and exaggerate the movements to challenge your muscles. Wear properly fitted shoes. Visit a sporting goods store and get your feet and arches measured. Ask for help selecting a pair of shoes to fit your workout. For instance, if you play soccer, you need cleats, not running shoes. Take a break. Cramps can be your body's way of telling you you're exercising too much, according to MayoClinic.com. Rest for a few days, then resume exercise and see if you can complete a workout without arch cramps. Stretch. At the end of your workout, perform a few stretching exercises to keep your muscles from tightening and cramping. Sit down, lean over and grasp your toes. Pull the toes toward your body until you feel tension in the arch of your foot. Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds, then repeat on the opposite side. Another easy way to stretch your arch is to put a towel on the floor, curl your toes around it and pull it toward your body.
Massage therapy is a great way to loosen muscles and help improve mobility in in your feet. As many people with foot pain have discovered, tight muscles in your legs or back can lead to tense foot muscles. All those muscles are connected, so tension in your back can cause tension in your legs which can pull the tendons in your feet and cause stiffness and pain. Getting acupuncture or a professional full body massage are probably the best ways to deal with this, but there are also some simple tricks you can do at home to help keep muscles limber. These are great for loosening up and improving circulation, both before and after exercise. Place a tennis ball under the arch of your bare foot and roll it around, stretching the muscles in your foot and promoting blood flow. You can also roll the ball under your calves and upper legs to work out stiffness and knots. If you feel the tennis ball is too easy, try a lacrosse ball for deeper massaging. This is also demonstrated in the exercise video above. Use a foam roller, those big overpriced rolls of foam that are now available in every department and sporting goods store are fantastic for self-massage (why a roll of foam costs $30 is beyond us, but they do work wonders-our advice is to not waste money on the more expensive fancy grooved ones because even the simplest rollers work great). The exercises you can do with foam rollers seem to be endless, and there are literally hundreds of free videos online showing how to use them to massage every part of your body. Here's one we picked out that specifically targets foot and leg muscles related to arches and plantar fasciitis.