Flat feet can be an extremely painful condition that affects many aspects of your life. Runners especially can have a difficult time dealing with flat feet, sometimes called fallen arches. Overpronation is generally associated with flat feet. This can lead to additional stress on other parts of the legs and the back. The typical answer to running with flat feet is to utilize motion control (stability) shoes with firm midsoles.
The reason for this is that the ankle has too much movement in a flat-footed individual. This excessive movement allows the overpronation to happen. The rest of the skeletal system overcompensates for this, and pain is the likely result in various areas.
Many people have low-arched feet, which can be dealt with much easier than flat feet. Arch support orthotics are usually quite helpful and generally take care of running issues for these people. Flat feet is considerably less common than low arches, but the condition does occur in a significant number of people.
Flat feet can occur in varying degrees from mild to severe. The condition can be described as flexible (mobile) or rigid (stiff). Many people are genetically susceptible to it. Others acquire it from injury or as a side effect of other foot problems. Initial treatments for the disorder are similar to those for plantar fasciitis injuries. This includes OTC anti-inflammatories and pain relievers, physical therapy, orthotics, and cortisone injections. Additionally, in more severe cases, an ankle foot orthotic is sometimes helpful for providing more support than typical orthotics.
Sometimes the severity of the condition dictates that surgery is required. There are a large number of surgical options that can be considered, depending on the exact nature of the case. For rigid flat feet, this usually means re-shaping the foot using a variety of methods. These include bone realignment, fusion, bone grafts, and clearing of the area that is restricting movement.
With flexible flat feet, however, the main focus is recreating the arch. This often is accomplished by repairing the tendons that lift the arch, and realignment of the heel. Weakening of the posterior tibialis tendon often leads to adult acquired flatfoot, which is one of the most common and troublesome cases. The tendon continues to weaken and the feet flatten as a result.
Any of these surgical methods can be expected to have a fairly long recovery time, usually from 6 to 12 weeks. The foot will not be able to support weight during a portion of this recovery time. It is typical to only have surgery on one foot at a time because of this. Sometimes the foot will need to be in a cast as well. The repercussions of surgery are severe enough that it is typical to try several other corrective measures before going this route.
A newer type of surgery which is gaining popularity is known as the HyProCure implant. This procedure is generally only performed on persons with flexible flat feet. It involves inserting a titanium implant into the sinus tarsi, and is considered a minimally invasive surgery. The incision is only an inch or so in length. The implant will reduce the movement in the ankles which leads to overpronation. The implant keeps the ankle in its proper position, which will naturally create the arch in the foot.
The HyProCure is attached and held in place by soft tissue, and the bones are not affected nearly as much. The device actually fits into a space in the ankle that is already there. The recovery time is normally much less than traditional flat foot surgery, typically around 4 weeks. There will be some adjustment time as the body adapts to having some arches again. These implants should help to improve the entire skeletal alignment and commonly reduces back and knee pain as well as foot pain.
Every condition is unique and complex, and a podiatrist needs to be consulted to help decide on the proper course of action. There are many options available, and one of these can help many people that are suffering from the flat foot condition.
Images courtesy: flickr/Euskalanato; hyprocure-surgery.blogspot.com