he belly isn't the only part of your body subject to middle-age spread. As we get older, the years of walking and standing can cause feet to spread and flatten out as ligaments that support the arch lose their holding power. The result: the condition known as fallen arches, or flat feet. "Keep in mind that we're talking about 26 bones in the foot that are supported by a series of ligaments, muscle tendons and other connective tissue," says Glenn Gastwirth, D.P.M., deputy executive director of the American Podiatric Medicine Association in Bethesda, Maryland. "Over a period of time, the ligaments stretch out or 'give' under the pressure of your weight-especially if you're overweight. So what usually happens is you go shopping for new shoes one day and suddenly realize that you now need a size 8 when you've always worn a size 6. You may think your foot has grown, but what really happens is that the foot has spread out, both in width and length."
Aging, injury, overuse, or illness can result in fallen arches or a fallen arch on one side. Diabetes. Obesity. Pregnancy. Nerve conditions. Foot abnormalities present since birth. Broken or dislocated bones in the foot. Stretched or torn tendons. Medical conditions such as arthritis. Sudden weight gain
Depending on the cause of the flatfoot, a patient may experience one or more of the different symptoms below. Pain along the course of the posterior tibial tendon which lies on the inside of the foot and ankle. This can be associated with swelling on the inside of the ankle. Pain that is worse with activity. High intensity or impact activities, such as running, can be very difficult. Some patients can have difficulty walking or even standing for long periods of time. When the foot collapses, the heel bone may shift position and put pressure on the outside ankle bone (fibula). This can cause pain on the outside of the ankle. Arthritis in the heel also causes this same type of pain. Patients with an old injury or arthritis in the middle of the foot can have painful, bony bumps on the top and inside of the foot. These make shoewear very difficult. Occasionally, the bony spurs are so large that they pinch the nerves which can result in numbness and tingling on the top of the foot and into the toes. Diabetics may only notice swelling or a large bump on the bottom of the foot. Because their sensation is affected, people with diabetes may not have any pain. The large bump can cause skin problems and an ulcer (a sore that does not heal) may develop if proper diabetic shoewear is not used.
Runners are often advised to get a gait analysis to determine what type of foot they have and so what kind of running shoe they require. This shouldn?t stop at runners. Anyone that plays sports could benefit from this assessment. Sports shoes such as football boots, astro trainers and squash trainers often have very poor arch support and so for the 60-80% of us who do overpronate or have flat feet they are left unsupported. A change of footwear or the insertion of arch support insoles or orthotics can make a massive difference to your risk of injury, to general aches and pains and even to your performance.
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Non Surgical Treatment
Heel cord stretching is an important part of treatment, as a tight Achilles tendon tends to pronate the foot. Orthotics (inserts or insoles, often custom-made) may be used. These usually contain a heel wedge to correct calcaneovalgus deformity, and an arch support. This is the usual treatment for flexible Pes Planus (if treatment is needed). A suitable insole can help to correct the deformity while it is worn. Possibly it may prevent progression of flat feet, or may reduce symptoms. However, the effectiveness of arch support insoles is uncertain. Arch supports used without correcting heel cord contracture can make symptoms worse. In patients with fixed Pes planus or arthropathy, customised insoles may relieve symptoms. Reduce contributing factors, wear shoes with low heels and wide toes. Lose weight if appropriate. Do exercises to strengthen foot muscles - walking barefoot (if appropriate), toe curls (flexing toes) and heel raises (standing on tiptoe).
In cases of flat feet that have progressed substantially or have failed to improve with non-surgical treatment, surgery may be required and in some advanced cases, surgery may be the only option. Your foot and ankle surgeon will determine the best approach for you.
oll away pain. If you're feeling pain in the arch area, you can get some relief by massaging the bottom of your foot. A regular massage while you're watching TV can do wonders" Stretch out. Doing the same type of stretching exercises that runners do in their warm-up can help reduce arch pain caused by a tight heel cord. One of the best exercises is to stand about three feet from a wall and place your hands on the wall. Leaning toward the wall, bring one foot forward and bend the knee so that the calf muscles of the other leg stretch. Then switch legs. Stretching is particularly important for women who spend all week in heels and then wear exercise shoes or sneakers on weekends. Get measured each time you buy new shoes. Don't assume that since you always wore a particular size, you always will. Too many people try to squeeze into their 'regular' shoe size and wind up with serious foot problems or sores on their feet. When your arch is falling, your feet may get longer or wider and you may or may not feel pain, so getting your foot measured each time you buy shoes is a good indicator of your arch's degeneration. Examine your shoes. If the heel is worn down, replace it. But if the back portion of the shoe is distorted or bent to one side, get yourself into a new pair of supportive shoes like those made specifically for walking. That's because flat feet can affect your walking stride, and failing to replace worn shoes may lead to knee or hip pain.