Flat feet are often known as fallen or collapsed arches. The inside of the feet is flattened often allowing the entire sole of the foot to have contact with the floor when standing. It is a relatively common condition and can affect up to 30 % of people. However, often there is no associated pain with flat feet.
What are the causes of flat feet?
Flat feet can be caused by several conditions including obesity, ageing, genetics, pregnancy or a previous injury to the foot, ankle or knee.
As we age the arches can slowly drop. Pregnancy commonly contributes to flat feet because the hormones released during pregnancy alter the tensile properties of the ligaments in the body including those that help support the arches of the feet.
Previous ankle or leg injuries can also contribute to flat feet. In these cases, it tends to occur to just one foot and coexists with overpronation of the mid foot as the ankle rolls too far inwards and downwards with each step.
What causes overpronation?
There are several reasons overpronation occurs. A few examples include the ankle becomes unstable following an ankle injury, or the knee is unstable due to ligament damage just to name a few.
Overpronation can lead to excessive pressure on the big toe or ball of the foot which over time results in a bunion. The muscle and tendon that runs along the inside of the ankle and helps support the arch, becomes overstretched, weak, swollen and painful. This is sometimes referred to as tibialis posterior tendon dysfunction or adult-acquired flat-foot deformity (AAFD).
Symptoms of an overpronated foot with AAFD include pain in the heel or arch, swelling and pain on the inside of the ankle and a tender and painful joint of the big toe.
Three things you can do to reduce your pain
There are several things that can be done to change the biomechanics, improve the strength of the muscles and reduce the pain.
- Arch supports can help improve the biomechanics of the foot as you step on the foot. They can help prevent the overstretching of the tibialis posterior muscle and so relieving the stress on it over time
- Stretching of the calf muscle with the foot and ankle in a neutral and supported position
- Strengthening of the tibialis post muscle and calf muscles. A graduated strengthening program monitoring the response is advisable. If too much strain is put on these muscles too early, then it can inflame the condition even more rather than help.
I hope this helps you understand a little more about flat feet and the overpronated foot.