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Hand pressing on a baby's flat foot

How to Help Flat Feet

We’ve all heard the expression, “flat-footed,” but what exactly does it mean? Pes Planus, also known as “fallen arches”, affects about 60 million Americans, or about 25% of the population. While flat feet are usually painless, they can sometimes lead to a number of problems and health complications. In this post, we will discuss the causes of flat feet and some treatments that can help.

Determining If You Have Flat Feet

If you aren’t certain if you have flat feet, try this simple home test. Simply wet the bottoms of your feet with water, and then carefully step onto a plain sheet of brown or white paper. (If you don’t have any paper on hand, you can also use a dry concrete sidewalk.) If your entire foot is visible in the wet footprint, and you can’t see a clear spot of dryness where your arch should be, then you have flat feet. If you aren’t interested in the at-home method, there are also many free in-store diagnostic machines that can help you determine whether or not you suffer from this common condition. You may also want to ask a doctor or podiatrist for an official diagnosis, especially if your flat feet impede you from certain activities.

Causes of Flat Feet

For most people, being flat-footed is purely genetic. All children and infants have naturally loose foot tendons. By the age of three, those tendons tighten and the arches develop. For about 25% of the population, however, that process simply never occurs and the feet remain flat. Flat feet can also develop naturally as a person ages. The daily wear and tear we put on our feet can cause arches to slowly drop over time as the tendons in the foot weaken. As the natural support for the arch is lost, it slowly falls down in line with the rest of the foot. For others, flat feet develop as a result of foot injuries, such as stretched or torn tendons and broken or dislocated bones. Other factors that increase the risk of developing flat feet are obesity, pregnancy, rheumatoid arthritis, and diabetes.

Problems Caused by Flat Feet

Some people find that their flat feet cause them a great deal of foot soreness, swelling, or pain, especially in the bottom of the foot. This pain often worsens with physical activity, such as hiking or running. People with flat feet may also experience pain and swelling on the inside of the ankle. Those with collapsed feet may experience pain on the outside of the ankle as well, causing certain movements, such as standing on tiptoe, to be difficult or painful. Flat feet can also contribute to problems in the ankles and knees because they alter the normal alignment of the feet and legs. High-impact activities such as running and jumping will exacerbate the pain, and some flat-footed people have trouble simply walking or standing for any length of time.

How to Help Flat Feet

The treatment for flat feet depends, in large part, on the exact cause of the condition. If your flat feet were caused by an injury, professional physical therapy can help relieve the pain you may be experiencing. If your Achilles tendon is too short or tight, there are a number of stretching exercises that can help you recover. Other treatments include rest, ice, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and in certain cases, injections such as corticosteroids. In extreme cases involving injury or complications from flat feet, surgery may even be necessary. Those who have no problems, or only moderate foot pain, may not need any special treatment at all. However, you may want to protect yourself from potential problems and further pain as you age, particularly if you participate in activities that place significant pressure on your feet, ankles, and knees. One excellent compression option for those suffering from flat feet is medical-grade compression braces such as Orthosleeve’s FS6 compression foot sleeve. A compression foot sleeve can help relieve foot pain by providing support, warmth, and comfort to the foot. The sleeves are comfortable, lightweight, durable, and affordable, making them a great solution for anyone suffering from foot pain.