Do at least one of your feet lie flat to the ground when standing? If so, you’re not alone as about 20 to 30 percent of people have a condition known as flat foot. Known medically known as pes planus, flat foot is a condition in which the medial arch of the foot collapses. People affected with this postural deformity have either an extremely low foot arch or may not have any arch at all. In other words, the arch of the foot is flattened. Here’s what you need to know about flat foot and how physical therapy can help.

Causes of Flat Foot: Hereditary Versus Progressive Collapse Overtime 

A common question many people have is whether flat foot is inherited, or if it caused by general wear and tear that occurs over time. For some people, flat foot can be due to genetic factors. Consider that it’s normal for babies and toddlers to have flat feet since time is needed for their tendons to tighten so that an arch can form. By the time most children reach their second or third birthday, they’ve developed arches. If this doesn’t occur by then, the condition is probably genetic.

For others, the disorder is the result of gradual foot wear and tear or an injury. Besides progressive arch collapse that occurs with aging, other causes may include rapid leg growth, obesity and even overly exercising.

Common Symptoms 

For many people, no treatment is needed because the condition doesn’t bother them. However, for others, the symptoms can be uncomfortable or painful, so medical attention is needed.

One of the main symptoms is foot fatigue. Your feet may be achy or painful, particularly around the heels and arches. Another symptom is swollenness on the interior bottoms of the feet. Some people experience lower back and leg pain. Others have difficulty when standing on their toes or from other foot movements. 

Body Regions That Can Be Negatively Affected by Flat Feet 

Even if your flat foot is not causing a lot of discomfort, it may still be negatively impacting your feet, in addition to affecting other regions of the body. Having flat foot can lead to other foot problems, including Plantar fascia, bunion formation and Metatarsals. For some people, the disorder can cause leg misalignment, which can result in knee pain, swollen ankles and other problems. Flat foot can also lead to knee, hip and lower back pain.

How Physical Therapists Treat Flat Foot 

Physical therapy can play a huge role in treating flat foot. For example, physical therapists educate their clients on proper posture and choosing the right footwear. If you have a mild overpronation or a neutral stride, stability shoes are recommended. Motion-control shoes are prescribed for people with more significant overpronation. There are also comfort shoes that don’t bend in the center of the sole, which provides support for your arches.

Besides wearing the proper shoes, orthotic supports can change foot structure. As additional layers are added, over a period of several weeks or months, you’re able to eventually adjust to how your foot feels with little or no discomfort. After you’ve begun wearing arch supports, you’ll need to continue using them for life.

Specific Exercises Prescribed by Physical Therapists

  • Physical therapists show their clients how to do specific exercises for affected areas, such as the hips, knees, back, ankles and feet.
  • For instance, they recommend foot gymnastics, such as using the toes to pick up marbles. This strengthens the intrinsic foot muscles.
  • The exercise known as a runner’s stretch lengthens the calf muscle and Achilles tendon.
  • Another effective exercise is the “downward dog”. This is a yoga pose that also lengthens and stretches the Achilles tendon and calf muscle.
  • Therapeutic massages can be effective. A good therapeutic massage used by physical therapists is rolling a ball under a foot. This can help in improving arch flexibility as well as alleviate pain.

You don’t have to settle for flat feet. If your flat foot is causing you discomfort and pain, or it is making it difficult to play sports or carry out your everyday activities, contact us. You can also call us at 570-208-2787 or email cawleyptfrank@gmail.com