Flat feet — also called adult flat feet or flatfoot — are painful, progressive deformities that affect the arch of the foot.
Flat feet result from the tearing and breaking down of the soft tissues in the arch. This wear causes the arch to flatten and the toes to point outward, often making the foot look like it has extra toes.
Flat feet, or a lack of an arch in the feet, are normal among children and toddlers because some arches develop over time. In fact, some people never develop an arch and may or may not have problems.
In other cases, the causes of flat feet range from pre-existing medical conditions — like arthritis and diabetic foot disease — to injuries, or even the wear and tear of age.
Flat feet problems are more common in women than in men.
Other major factors that may increase your risk for adult flat feet include:
Flat feet can cause a number of problems in the ankles and knees because of the altered positioning of the feet and pressure changes of walking and moving.
If you suspect flat feet, you should seek treatment. These conditions may worsen over time or lead to other problems.
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Flat feet often occur over time.
They involve a progression of symptoms that may grow to combine individual symptoms or contribute to related conditions.
Some people with flat feet report no physical pain or changes.
Others may experience a wide variety of flat feet symptoms, including:
If you have pain or other symptoms in your feet, your doctor may order a test based on your description and ability to bear weight. These testing options aim to examine your bone and muscle structure for any damage.
Tests for diagnosing flat feet include:
Starting treatment as soon as possible is very helpful for adult flat feet. However, treatment only becomes necessary when you feel pain or have reduced mobility.
At UPMC Orthopaedic Care, our treatment goals for flat feet aim to:
Orthopaedic experts at UPMC offer the following nonsurgical treatment options for flat feet:
These treatments can be very effective in managing pain and preserving both function and mobility in your feet.
In some cases, doctors may recommend surgery to relieve the tension in your tissues and muscles that cause the arch to fall.
Flat feet surgery may be an attractive and effective treatment option when:
Treatments for flat feet can be effective in preserving and even restoring function.
For this reason, be sure to tell your doctor about any acute or chronic pain you feel at the bottom of your feet and undergo proper testing.
Following any surgical treatments for flat feet, you will have to avoid all weight bearing activities for about three months.
Not following doctors' orders of this rest period can lead to further foot problems and complications.
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