Flat feet also known as Pes Planus is where the arch of the foot is in complete contact with the ground.
The arch plays an important role in lower limb biomechanics; it helps propel the body over the foot during walking whilst also assisting in shock absorption. The muscles and ligaments supporting the arch are stretched in a pes planus foot. This stops the function of the 'windlass mechanism', which is responsible for assisting the body to propel forward.
Flat feet in children
It is common for young infants and toddlers to have a flat foot appearance. This is because the arch is not fully developed. During the ages of 4 and 6 the arch will form its shape.
When to act on it?
When a young child is walking oddly or limping during walking. They may get tired and want to be picked up. The child may be rubbing their knees, legs, ankles or feet in a sign of pain or discomfort. This is when it is important to get a podiatrist to assess them.
Flat Feet in Adults
Flat feet can be 'acquired' as an adult and this is generally due to injury, illness and increased stresses to the foot or poor biomechanics. It is important to know the foot also changes with age. There is a rigid and flexible flat foot type. Other risk factors are pregnancy, obesity, hypertension, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. Symptoms of painful flat feet is similar to a child, tired feet, aching, muscle cramps and aches, knee, hip and back pain.
How is it treated?
If you are not getting any pain or discomfort, then treatment may not be necessary. Usual treatment will be tailored to managing painful symptoms through physical therapies such as low level laser therapy and joint mobilisation. Orthotic devices are effective at improving the foot biomechanics, these help to lift the arch, which reduces the strain on the supporting muscles and ligaments. Exercise prescription is often required to strengthen the intrinsic and extrinsic muscles of the foot. A rigid flat foot may require surgery, this is very rare, however your podiatrist will be able to assist in the diagnosis of this.