Having flat feet is a common foot condition.
Socrates once quipped, “When our feet hurt, we hurt all over.” According to Orthopaedic surgeon, Dr. Kevin Yip, this greatly emphasises the importance of foot care. “If our feet are not healthy, then other areas of the body can also be affected,” says Dr. Kevin Yip, Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at Gleneagles Medical Centre, who treats orthopaedic injuries.
What does it mean to be flat footed?
While most people’s feet have an arch or curve between the big toe and heel, flat footed people will find that theirs are very low. Though it may not be obvious when seated, the absence of an arch is noticeable when standing up. This condition is called flat feet, or fallen arches. “In some severe cases, the arch can touch the ground. It’s also common for feet to turn slightly outwards,” Dr. Kevin Yip informs.
Most babies are born with flat feet, but as the child ages, the foot’s soft tissues tighten and eventually form an arch. Congenital flat foot is when someone is when some people never form arches in their feet. Adult-acquired flat foot occurs when adults who have gone through foot injuries, pregnancy, arthritis and even aging lose their arches.
There are some flat footed people who experience no pain at all. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for everyone with flat feet.
What are the causes and symptoms?
“Flat feet are usually genetic. If your parents have flat feet, then it is highly likely that you will have them. Adult-acquired flat feet is when the posterior tibial tendon has become stretched and loose over time. The purpose of this muscle is to pull the arch of the foot up as we walk. If this is placed under stress, occasionally it can stretch and cause the arch to collapse,” informs Dr. Kevin Yip.
Pregnancy can also lead to flat feet. Firstly, the extra weight being placed on the feet can cause the arch to lower. Secondly, during the last trimester of the pregnancy, the female body releases chemicals to cause the ligaments in the hips to become very stretchy. This is important as the hips will need to stretch to allow the baby through. The problem with this is that the chemicals are not selective and cause ligaments all through the body to become stretchy. In our feet, we have ligaments to hold our bones together. When these ligaments are stretched, the foot can become very wide and the arch can become lower.
While symptoms may vary depending on how severe your condition is, common symptoms include pain in the ankle, arch of the foot, calf, knee, hip and back. People with flat feet have also experienced stiffness in one or both feet. And as your body weight is distributed unevenly, you may find that our shoes wear out unevenly.
Why are arches important?
The arch gives us spring and distributes the weight of our body across our legs and feet. It gives us balance and posture, determining how we carry out our daily activities such as standing, walking and running. The structure of our arches should be sturdy enough to take on various surfaces and pressures. It decreases the impact on our lower back, knees and ankles. Without an arch, the likelihood of developing other condition increases.
Pain can occur even in the legs and lower back because our posture consists of not just our back, neck and shoulder but also our hips, knees and feet. If our feet have poor posture and alignment this can cause problems further up the body. They cal also contribute to other foot problems such as these:
Arthritis:Arthritis is degeneration of the joint. This often happens in the big toe of people with flat feet who walk with too much pressure on the inside of the foot. This can eventually lead to arthritis.
Hammertoes:If some of your toes curl upwards at the joint, you may have hammertoe. As shoes tend to feel ill-fitted, it may cause pain and discomfort to your feet.
Bunions:Bunions commonly affect the joints at the big toe. Flat feet cause your shoes to fit improperly and this will place pressure on the joint at the base of your big toe. This causes the joint to enlarge and push the big toe towards the other toes.
Shin Splints:A shin splint is an inflammation of the muscle that supports the arch. This is also because of excess pressure placed upon the arch of the foot. Symptoms of shin splints include pain to the shin and in the lower leg when bending the foot.
Calluses:Calluses are thick, hardened layers of skin that develop on your feet. This is due to the friction from rubbing against the inside of the shoe.