The arches of the feet have a key role to play in supporting your weight and protecting your feet and lower body from pain and injury.
By gently flexing as you step, they act like shock absorbers and spread out contact forces over a longer period of time. And there’s an added bonus—by storing that energy like a spring and then releasing it, they help propel you forward more efficiently.
Unfortunately, arches can be prone to breaking down and flattening over time, whether due to a specific injury or just years of wear and tear. When this happens, constant foot pain and fatigue can develop into more serious injuries, or keep you from the activities you love.
Fortunately, we can help.
What Causes Flatfoot in Adults?
The most common cause of adult-acquired flatfoot is a condition called posterior tibial tendon dysfunction (PTTD). The posterior tibial tendon runs from the calf muscle to the bones on the inside of the foot, and it’s main role is to help hold up the arch. If this tendon becomes overstretched, inflamed, or otherwise damaged, it can lengthen, weaken, and loosen—leading to a collapse of the arch.
Other possible causes and contributing factors include:
- Inflammatory arthritis
- Other foot injuries, including torn tendons and ligaments, fractures, and dislocations
- Conditions that weaken bones or nerve function, such as diabetes or neuropathy
What Are the Symptoms of Flatfoot?
Common symptoms for people with collapsed arches later in life include:
- Foot and leg pain and tenderness, particularly concentrated along the inside of the feet and ankles. Pain may be worse in the period after exercise.
- Visible deformity of the feet. In addition to the flattening and widening of the foot, the heel may shift out of alignment with the rest of the leg, and the front of the foot may splay outward.
- Development of heel pain, arthritis, tightness in the calves, and other painful issues.
- Gradually losing the ability to wear normal shoes comfortably or to engage in everyday activities or favorite hobbies without pain.
How Is Flatfoot Treated?
As with other structural deformities like bunions and hammertoes, the unfortunate truth is that a collapsed arch can only be repaired via surgery. However, conservative treatments to manage pain and improve the functional performance of your feet may be effective if your flat feet are mild to moderate.
Conservative management options may include:
- Temporary rest and/or immobilization (to allow the inflamed tendon to heal)
- Stretching and physical therapy
- Custom orthotics that support the normal function of the arch
If non-surgical treatments are not effective or not recommended, the best choice is usually to perform a flatfoot reconstruction surgery. This procedure may also be performed in combination with a bunion surgery in order to lower the risk of recurrence.
The goal of flatfoot reconstruction is to realign the bones, tendons, and other anatomical structures of your arches so that they look and functions as normally as possible. This way, they can distribute pressure more effectively when standing and walking.
There are several different kinds of procedures that may be employed, including osteotomies, fusion of arthritic joints, tendon transfers, and others. We will develop a customized surgical plan that best addresses your condition and personal goals and needs.
Advanced therapies such as MLS laser treatment may be employed to help accelerate the post-operative healing and recovery process. We are proud to be able to provide this kind of state-of-the-art to our patients right here in Twin Falls and Burley.