Flat Foot or Fallen Arch

What is a flat foot or fallen arch?

A normal foot should arch so the middle of the foot does not touch the ground when the patient stands up. If it does touch, the patient has a flat foot or fallen arch.

Flat feet are normal for young children. Their arches should develop by adulthood, but sometimes they fail to develop.

What are the symptoms of a flat foot or fallen arch?

Some people with flat feet have pain in the heel or arch, but others do not.

Who is likely to get a flat foot or fallen arch?

The patient may have flat feet from birth, but more often the condition occurs when tendons are stretched or torn. This is more common if the patient is obese, diabetic or older.

Pregnancy puts more weight on the feet, so it can cause fallen arches. After the baby is born and the patient loses weight, her foot will remain flatter and her shoe size may be a half-size larger. That is why new moms know the "new baby, new shoes" maxim.

What causes a flat foot or fallen arch?

The arch may fail to develop during childhood. Or an injury, obesity or disease causes the arch to fall.

How is a flat foot or fallen arch diagnosed?

The physician at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush examines the foot, looks at the wear pattern on the patient’s shoes and observes his gait. If he suspects an injury or arthritis, he may order an X-ray, CT scan or MRI.

What are the treatments for a flat foot or fallen arch?

Non-surgical Treatment Options

When pain results from a fallen arch, the physician may prescribe these:

  • Rest and ice
  • A brace to help support the fallen arch
  • Physical therapy to strengthen and stretch the foot
  • Orthotics (arch supports) to compensate for a fallen arch
  • The physician may tell the patient to choose shoes that have proper arch supports and avoid non-supportive shoes such as flip-flops
  • If obesity contributed to the fallen arch, the patient should lose weight

Surgical Treatment Options

Rarely does the physician use surgery to correct a foot that is congenitally flat, which typically does not cause pain. If the patient has a fallen arch that is painful, though, the foot and ankle physicians at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush may perform surgery to reconstruct the tendon and "lift up" the fallen arch. This requires a combination of tendon re-routing procedures, ligament repairs, and bone cutting or fusion procedures.