There's an easy way to tell if you have flat feet
. Simply wet your feet, then stand on a flat, dry surface that will leave an imprint of your foot. A normal
footprint has a wide band connecting the ball of the foot to the heel, with an indentation on the inner side of the foot. A foot with a high arch has a large indentation and a very narrow connecting
band. Flat feet leave a nearly complete imprint, with almost no inward curve where the arch should be. Most people have "flexible flatfoot" as children; an arch is visible when the child rises up on
the toes, but not when the child is standing. As you age, the tendons that attach to the bones of the foot grow stronger and tighten, forming the arch. But if injury or illness damages the tendons,
the arch can "fall," creating a flatfoot
. In many adults, a low arch or a flatfoot
is painless and causes no problems. However, a painful flatfoot can be a sign of a congenital abnormality or an injury to the muscles and tendons of the foot. Flat feet can even contribute to low
There are numerous causes of acquired adult flatfoot, including fracture or dislocation, tendon laceration, tarsal coalition, arthritis, neuroarthropathy, neurologic weakness, and iatrogenic causes.
The most common cause of acquired adult flatfoot is posterior tibial tendon dysfunction.
The symptom most often associated with AAF is PTTD, but it is important to see this only as a single step along a broader continuum. The most important function of the PT tendon is to work in synergy
with the peroneus longus to stabilize the midtarsal joint (MTJ). When the PT muscle contracts and acts concentrically, it inverts the foot, thereby raising the medial arch. When stretched under
tension, acting eccentrically, its function can be seen as a pronation retarder. The integrity of the PT tendon and muscle is crucial to the proper function of the foot, but it is far from the lone
actor in maintaining the arch. There is a vital codependence on a host of other muscles and ligaments that when disrupted leads to an almost predictable loss in foot architecture and subsequent
There are four stages of adult-acquired flatfoot deformity (AAFD). The severity of the deformity determines your stage. For example, Stage I means there is a flatfoot position but without deformity.
Pain and swelling from tendinitis is common in this stage. Stage II there is a change in the foot alignment. This means a deformity is starting to develop. The physician can still move the bones back
into place manually (passively). Stage III adult-acquired flatfoot deformity (AAFD) tells us there is a fixed deformity. This means the ankle is stiff or rigid and doesn???t move beyond a neutral
(midline) position. Stage IV is characterized by deformity in the foot and the ankle. The deformity may be flexible or fixed. The joints often show signs of degenerative joint disease
Non surgical Treatment
Medical or nonoperative therapy for posterior tibial tendon dysfunction involves rest, immobilization, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy, orthotics, and bracing. This
treatment is especially attractive for patients who are elderly, who place low demands on the tendon, and who may have underlying medical problems that preclude operative intervention. During stage 1
posterior tibial tendon dysfunction, pain, rather than deformity, predominates. Cast immobilization is indicated for acute tenosynovitis of the posterior tibial tendon or for patients whose main
presenting feature is chronic pain along the tendon sheath. A well-molded short leg walking cast or removable cast boot should be used for 6-8 weeks. Weight bearing is permitted if the patient is
able to ambulate without pain. If improvement is noted, the patient then may be placed in custom full-length semirigid orthotics. The patient may then be referred to physical therapy for stretching
of the Achilles tendon and strengthening of the posterior tibial tendon. Steroid injection into the posterior tibial tendon sheath is not recommended due to the possibility of causing a tendon
rupture. In stage 2 dysfunction, a painful flexible deformity develops, and more control of hindfoot motion is required. In these cases, a rigid University of California at Berkley (UCBL) orthosis or
short articulated ankle-foot orthosis (AFO) is indicated. Once a rigid flatfoot deformity develops, as in stage 3 or 4, bracing is extended above the ankle with a molded AFO, double upright brace, or
patellar-tendon-bearing brace. The goals of this treatment are to accommodate the deformity, prevent or slow further collapse, and improve walking ability by transferring load to the proximal leg
away from the collapsed medial midfoot and heel.
If conservative treatment fails to provide relief of pain and disability then surgery is considered. Numerous factors determine whether a patient is a surgical candidate. They include age, obesity,
diabetes, vascular status, and the ability to be compliant with post-operative care. Surgery usually requires a prolonged period of nonweightbearing immobilization. Total recovery ranges from 3
months to one year. Clinical, x-ray, and MRI examination are all used to select the appropriate surgical procedure.