Flatfoot (formally known as pes planus) is a very common disorder that may lead to pain in the foot and ankle. It describes a foot which has a low or “flattened” arch. There are varying degrees and various types of flat feet.
This condition occurs in children (congenital flatfoot) as well as in adults (acquired flatfoot). It is common to see a normal arch while sitting, but upon standing the arch may flatten. This can give the appearance of the ankle rolling in and the heel rolling out. This process is called “pronation.” The toes may also point outwards. Flatfoot can also lead to the development of bunions and hammertoes.
Most flatfoot conditions are flexible (mobile), while a few are rigid. Rigid flatfoot is usually caused by a tarsal coalition (two of the bones in the rearfoot are connected together) in adolescents and adults, and by vertical talus (a very complex deformity often requiring surgery) at birth. Flexible flatfoot is typically hereditary and can be caused by a tight calf muscle or laxity (flexibility) of the ligaments.
Not all flatfoot conditions cause pain. Symptoms are often described as a tired or weak feeling in the arch or ankle after being on the feet for a short duration, pain on the inside of the ankle or arch, shin splints, or pain in the ankles.
Our podiatrists at Bay Area Foot Care can evaluate, diagnose, and treat these conditions. Treatment will typically start with conservative therapies. These may include shoe gear modifications, orthotics, stretching exercises, and physical therapy. Activity modifications, anti-inflammatory medications, and icing may also be treatment options.
If conservative treatment is not effective, surgical correction is recommended. There are several procedures that may be utilized to correct a flatfoot deformity. The goal is to relieve the pain and improve the function of the foot. Procedures may include tendon lengthening, tendon transfers, cutting and shifting bones, fusion of joints, and implants. Our podiatrists will be able to select the procedure(s) you need based on the level of the deformity, your age, activity level, x-rays, and clinical examination. The recovery period depends on the procedures selected, but typically ranges about 3–6 months.