Maybe you have been told — or have figured out on your own — that you have flat feet. You may not feel like it’s much of a big deal. But flat feet, also called fallen arches, can have significant impacts on your health and well-being.
Flat feet may or may not cause pain now, but they eventually will. The providers at Rocky Mountain Foot and Ankle Center explain more about the way flat feet can be a problem for your health and what you can do about it.
The causes of flat feet
You may be born with flat feet. You also may develop them over time.
It’s common for your arches not to develop when you’re a child, leading to flat feet. Children develop arches around age 3, but not all do. Arches that don’t develop normally can be caused by one of the following:
- Excessive bowing of the calf bone
- Congenital flat foot
- Dyspraxia, a developmental coordination disorder
- Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
- Loose ligaments
- Inward-pointing toes
- Congenitally fused foot bones
However, some people also develop flat feet over time, often as a result of being overweight. Other conditions that can cause flat feet include pregnancy, diabetes, uneven leg lengths, scoliosis, Marfan’s syndrome, and rheumatoid arthritis.
How we diagnose flat feet
Flat feet are diagnosed by a couple of different methods. One simple test is called the wet foot test. In this test, you step out of the shower onto a piece of paper and look at the shape of the footprint you leave behind.
If you have flat feet, your footprint will look like an oblong shape with toes, as compared to a normal footprint, which is more kidney-shaped with toes.
If you need more official diagnosis or have significant foot pain, flat feet may be diagnosed by magnetic-resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasound, X-rays, or computerized tomography (CT) scans.
The problems caused by flat feet
Flat feet become a problem because you tend to overpronate. What this means is that your feet turn inward when you walk. This makes your ankles weaker and causes pain in your feet. You also may be more likely to develop conditions like plantar fasciitis, which causes sharp pain in your feet, especially when you first wake up.
Flat feet cause an altered gait, which refers to the way that you walk. This can lead to other problems, such as bunions or hammertoes.
How to treat your flat feet
Flat feet are common, but they can often be treated.
One of the first things you may try is taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®) or naproxen sodium (Aleve®.)
In addition, we may make custom-fitted orthotics for you to wear in your shoes. These are molded to the shape of your feet and support your ankles and feet, correcting for the overpronation.
You may find it helpful to learn physical therapy exercises to relieve your foot pain. Physical therapy can strengthen the muscles of your lower legs, ankles, and feet.
If you have flat feet, a podiatrist can help you build strength and get relief. Contact the providers at Rocky Mountain Foot and Ankle Center today or request an appointment online at one of our offices in Thornton, Evergreen, Granby, and Wheat Ridge, Colorado.