Most of us have a low arch. The foot actually appears quite normal and a clear (but low) arch is present under the foot, especially when sitting down. The situation changes with weight bearing: when we get up the arch lowers. When we start walking the arches collapse and the ankles roll inwards. This is called over-pronation - or fallen arches. Over-pronation is not the same as flat feet as often noted. Pronation itself is not wrong as we need to pronate and supinate as part of our gait. Pronation (rolling in) acts as a shock absorbing process and supination (rolling out) helps to propel our feet forward.
There are several factors that can contribute to the development of fallen arches. These factors include the following. Genetic abnormality, torn or stretched tendons, amage to the posterior tibial tendon, bone fractures, dislocation of bones, nerve damage, rheumatoid arthritis and other medical conditions. In addition, there are other factors that can increase your risk of developing fallen arches. These risk factors include diabetes, pregnancy, Obesity and Aging.
Symptoms that should be checked by a pediatrician include foot pain, sores or pressure areas on the inner side of the foot, a stiff foot, limited side-to-side foot motion, or limited up-and-down ankle motion. For further treatment you should see a pediatric orthopedic surgeon or podiatrist experienced in childhood foot conditions.
There are a few simple ways to assess your foot type, and most include making an imprint of your footprint. The classic way is to stand on a hard floor surface with wet feet to make a wet foot print. Look at the narrowest part of your footprint, which should be between your heel and ball of your foot. If the print of your foot in this part is less than 10% of the width of the widest part then you are likely to have high arches. more than 10% but less than 25% then your foot profile is probably normal, more than 25% or even the widest part, then you have flat feet.
Why do arches fall?
Non Surgical Treatment
The simplest form of treatment is the use of custom fitted orthotics. For this, it is best to see a podiatrist, who is a trained medical professional that assesses feet and gives you a prescription for the orthotic. If the orthotics do not work - or if the deformity is very severe - then surgical management may be needed. There is a very wide range of procedures available, with varying downtimes and complexity. The simplest procedure of all is a simple calf release. This can be done at the back of the knee or the calf, and has a very quick recovery. It is a day-surgery procedure, and the patient can walk immediately after the surgery without the need for a cast. Recovery back to jogging can be as early as three weeks. The calf release stops the deforming force but obviously does not correct the arch itself. It is usually done in combination with some of the other procedures mentioned below. Done by itself, the patient will probably still require orthotics but by releasing the calf, it allows the orthotics to be much more effective. The other end of the spectrum is a complete reconstruction of the arch with bone work and screws to fuse joints.
This is rare and usually only offered if patients have significant abnormalities in their bones or muscles. Treatments include joint fusion, reshaping the bones in the foot, and occasionally moving around tendons in the foot to help balance out the stresses (called tendon transfer). Flat feet and fallen arches are common conditions that are in most cases asymptomatic. However, in patients who do have symptoms, treatments are available that can help reduce pain and promote efficient movement. Orthotic devices are well recognised as an excellent treatment and podiatrists can offer these different treatment modalities as individualised treatments for patients.
Patients may go home the day of surgery or they may require an overnight hospital stay. The leg will be placed in a splint or cast and should be kept elevated for the first two weeks. At that point, sutures are removed. A new cast or a removable boot is then placed. It is important that patients do not put any weight on the corrected foot for six to eight weeks following the operation. Patients may begin bearing weight at eight weeks and usually progress to full weightbearing by 10 to 12 weeks. For some patients, weightbearing requires additional time. After 12 weeks, patients commonly can transition to wearing a shoe. Inserts and ankle braces are often used. Physical therapy may be recommended. There are complications that relate to surgery in general. These include the risks associated with anesthesia, infection, damage to nerves and blood vessels, and bleeding or blood clots. Complications following flatfoot surgery may include wound breakdown or nonunion (incomplete healing of the bones). These complications often can be prevented with proper wound care and rehabilitation. Occasionally, patients may notice some discomfort due to prominent hardware. Removal of hardware can be done at a later time if this is an issue. The overall complication rates for flatfoot surgery are low.