Flat foot, also known as pes planus or fallen arches, is a condition in podiatry characterized by the collapse of the foot’s arch when standing. This can be seen when the entire sole of the foot comes into complete or near-complete contact with the ground. In a typical foot, a gap is evident beneath the inner part of the foot when a person stands, due to the upward curve of the arch.

Causes of Flat Foot

Flat foot can occur due to various reasons:

  • Genetic Factors: Some people are born with flat feet or develop them during childhood as a part of their normal growth and development process.
  • Posterior Tibial Tendon Dysfunction (PTTD): This is one of the most common causes of adult-acquired flatfoot. The posterior tibial tendon can become inflamed or torn, affecting its ability to support the arch.
  • Injury: Trauma to the foot or ankle can damage the bones, tendons, or ligaments, leading to a flat foot.
  • Arthritis: Joint disease can lead to changes in the structure of the foot.
  • Muscle Diseases: Conditions such as cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy can affect the muscles and lead to flat feet.
  • Pregnancy: Hormonal changes and increased body weight during pregnancy can temporarily cause flat feet due to increased laxity in the ligaments.

Symptoms of Flat Foot

Many individuals with flat feet experience no symptoms. However, some may have:

  • Pain in the arch, heel, or ankle area
  • Pain along the shin bone
  • Swelling along the inside of the ankle
  • Pain that worsens with activity or standing for long periods
  • Altered walking patterns (overpronation)

Diagnosis of Flat Foot

The diagnosis typically involves a physical examination of the foot, observation of the walking pattern, and possibly imaging tests such as X-rays or MRIs to assess the structural aspects of the foot and rule out other conditions.

Treatment Options for Flat Foot

Treatment may range from conservative to surgical interventions, depending on the severity and the cause:

  • Conservative Treatments:
    • Physical therapy
    • Orthotic devices or arch supports
    • Anti-inflammatory medications
    • Weight management
    • Proper footwear
  • Surgical Treatments:
    • Reconstruction
    • Arthrodesis (fusion of joints)
    • Tendon transfers
    • Osteotomies (cutting and realignment of bones)

For many, flat foot is a painless condition and may not require any treatment. However, if pain and other symptoms are present, it is vital to address them to avoid further complications and improve quality of life.