Care and treatment of Flat Feet

Our genetics determine everything about our bodies, from eye colour to the shape and structure of our feet. In some cases, our genes can result in an abnormal structure with which we are born, and these are referred to as congenital defects. One such defect is the flat foot, where a child is born with a foot lacking a distinctive arch which drives a normal and healthy walk or run. In this article we look at what causes flat footedness, and how modern podiatry, the specialism dealing with treatments of the foot, is involved in treating the condition.

What is flat footedness?

As mentioned above, flat footedness is a genetic condition which is actually fairly common amongst children and adults in the world today. While flat footedness affecting young children is largely genetic, adults can acquire flatfoot in later life through injury or disease, so the disease does also have an environmental component. The condition is also referred to as fallen or collapsed arches, and is thought to affect as much as 25% of the population. It is characterised by an absence of a distinctive arch which is an important component of the foot that drives a healthy walk. Flat footed people walk with the entirety of the soles of their feet (one or both) in contact with the ground.

Most babies are born with flat feet, but this is because the foot’s arch (also known as the longitudinal arch), is not yet fully developed and is masked by baby fat. Over time the arch becomes more prominent, and there are exercises a child can perform to encourage the development of high, healthy arches.

In some cases however, it becomes apparent that a child is suffering from an abnormality in their gait which stems from true flat footedness, where the foot simply does not have a prominent enough arch, if one at all. Flat footedness affects the way we walk, and over time it can cause pain in the ankle or knee, a limp, or clumsiness. These are typically signs that a child is suffering from flat feet, particularly where they seem to walk on the outer edges of their feet. Many children will complain of pain or tiredness in their feet.

Treating flat feet

If you suspect your child of having flat feet, then taking them to a doctor or a podiatrist is a good way to determine whether or not their gait problems stem from this condition. Podiatrists can offer a number of exercises to strengthen the foot and improve gait, like walking barefoot on the beach or other terrain. Some evidence suggests that wearing sandals or other loose footwear can have a similar effect on the foot.

Podiatrists can also prescribe and prepare specialised in-soles that are tailored to the anatomy of the foot and create an artificial arch. These inserts are extremely convenient and can be easily transferred from shoe show. They allow for a comfortable walk without the pain and discomfort associated with flat footedness, and are particularly useful for running and other activities placing stress on the joints of the lower limbs. Over time flat footedness can cause serious knee injury for athletes.

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