Flat feet are really flat arches. A flexible network of bones, joints, ligaments and tendons creates the foot arch, which acts as a shock absorber for the entire body. We need an arch because each time we take a step, whether to walk, run or jump, we place up to 5X our body weight on the foot. The arch flexes and prevents the bones of the foot, leg, and lower back from fracturing or dislocating. Flat feet are generally an inherited trait but can also result from weakening due to advancing age, neuromuscular disease, injury or trauma. Abnormal movement of the bones and joints due to insufficient tension over time can eventually lead to such painful disorders such as bunions, hammertoes, neuromas, calluses and corns.
Flat feet (arches) are correlated with a condition called over-pronation. Over-pronating occurs when the foot excessively turns outward and the ankle collapses inward, forcing the patient to walk on the inner border of the foot. The result is inner ankle prominence as well as the twisting of muscles and tendons, including the Achilles tendon, which run from the leg and ankle into the foot. If left untreated, over-pronation may cause heel spurs, plantar fasciitis, frequent ankle sprains, shin splints, and knee, hip, and lower back pain.
Treatment for flat arches ideally should start during early childhood development, as early as 3 years of age, when children develop a heel-toe gait. However, other conditions such as club foot would require earlier intervention and treatment. Custom-made orthotics and shoes with custom-made arches should be worn daily to aid in the development and formation of a normal arch, while preventing the arch from flattening. If the condition is not corrected during childhood, adult course of treatment consists of preventing the total collapse of the arch while alleviating pain associated with the disorder. Custom-made orthotics ensure maximum comfort and support while reducing pain in the arches, back, knees and hips.
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