The most common arch problem is the flat foot. This sometimes starts in childhood or may gradually develop in adulthood. In most cases the flat foot is related to a tight calf. The tightness of the calf forces the foot to overpronate (the inside of the foot rolls inwards) and the arch to break down and collapse. The arch collapse leads to abnormal stress on the plantar fascia leading to heel pain, as well as to the main medial tendon (the posterior tibial tendon), leading to tendonitis and even tears of the tendon. The other common symptom in severe flat feet is pain on the outside of the foot as well as calf and Achilles symptoms.
There are a variety of causes of flat feet. Flat feet can be genetic, acquired and develop over time. Young children and teens can have no arches. Injury can lead to flat feet. Tendon problems, and arthritis can lead to flat feet. Rigid flat feet may occur from a condition called tarsal coalition, where the bones in the back of the foot are genetically fused or locked together.
Bones and ligaments work together to form joints, and bones are joined together by ligaments. Strains occur in ligaments. In the arch, there are ligaments that are located at the ends of each bone. These ligaments connect the bones to other bones on both ends and on the sides. Point tenderness and looseness of a joint are indicators of a sprain. Fractures are indicated by point tenderness that may be severe over the area of bone that is affected. There may be a distinguishable lump or gap at the site of the fracture. A rotated toe or forefoot may also be a sign of a fracture.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) can show tendon injury and inflammation but cannot be relied on with 100% accuracy and confidence. The technique and skill of the radiologist in properly positioning the foot with the MRI beam are critical in demonstrating the sometimes obscure findings of tendon injury around the ankle. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is expensive and is not necessary in most cases to diagnose posterior tibial tendon injury. Ultrasound has also been used in some cases to diagnose tendon injury, but this test again is usually not required to make the initial diagnosis.
Non Surgical Treatment
The treatment of a rigid flatfoot depends on its cause. Congenital vertical talus. Your doctor may suggest a trial of serial casting. The foot is placed in a cast and the cast is changed frequently to reposition the foot gradually. However, this generally has a low success rate. Most people ultimately need surgery to correct the problem. Tarsal coalition. Treatment depends on your age, extent of bone fusion and severity of symptoms. For milder cases, your doctor may recommend nonsurgical treatment with shoe inserts, wrapping of the foot with supportive straps or temporarily immobilizing the foot in a cast. For more severe cases, surgery is necessary to relieve pain and improve the flexibility of the foot. Lateral subtalar dislocation. The goal is to move the dislocated bone back into place as soon as possible. If there is no open wound, the doctor may push the bone back into proper alignment without making an incision. Anesthesia is usually given before this treatment. Once this is accomplished, a short leg cast must be worn for about four weeks to help stabilize the joint permanently. About 15% to 20% of people with lateral subtalar dislocation must be treated with surgery to reposition the dislocated bone.
Surgery may be necessary in situations where the symptoms are likely to get worse over time, or when pain and instability cannot be corrected with external orthopedic devices. There are many types of surgical procedures, including cavus foot reconstruction, which can be performed to correct the foot and the ankle and restore function and muscle balance.
To prevent arch pain, it is important to build up slowly to your exercise routine while wearing arch supports inside training shoes. By undertaking these simple measures you can prevent the discomfort of arch pain which can otherwise linger for many months. While you allow the foot to recover, it will help to undertake low impact exercises (such as swimming or water aerobics).
Inchworm. Stand with your weight on one foot. Raise the metatarsal heads of the unweighted foot while you pull its heel closer to your toes. Next, raise your toes toward the ceiling, and then relax your whole foot with it flat on the floor. Your foot should move like an inchworm across the floor. Reps 6-7 for each foot. Horsepawing. Stand with your weight on one foot and the other foot slightly in front of you. Raise the metatarsal heads on the front foot. Lift your heel ever so slightly off the ground, maintaining the raised metatarsal heads, and pull your foot toward you so that it ends up behind you. Return this foot to the starting position in front of you. You should really feel this one in your arch. Reps. 6-7 for each foot. Toe pushups. Sit in a chair with your feet resting on the floor. Raise your heel as high as you can while keeping your toes flat on the floor. This is the starting position. Using your toe muscles, roll your foot upward until the weight of your foot is resting on the ends of your toes, like a dancer standing on point in toe shoes. Roll back down to the starting position. Reps. 10-20 for each foot. Sand scraping. Pretend you are at the beach standing in loose sand. Use your big toe to pull sand inward toward your body, with your little toe off the ground. Then use your little toe to push it away, with your big toe off the ground. Reps. 10 for each foot. Now reverse the exercise: pull the sand inward with your little toe and push it away with your big toe. Reps. 10 for each foot.