Flat Footed: 5 Problems Faced By People With Fallen Arches

Many of us take the arches in our feet for granted, but your arches aren't without purpose. 

The arches in your foot exist because the tendons in your foot and lower leg pull together to make space at the bottom of your foot. If those tendons fail, the arch disappears. When that happens, it throws off the biomechanics of your foot and leg and can result in a long list of stress injuries that can leave you limping - or even stuck in bed.

Fallen arches, also known as hyper pronation or overpronation, threaten the integrity of your foot.

What Are Fallen Arches?

Fallen arches, or flat feet, occur when your tendons don't work together to keep the arches of your feet raised. For some people, it begins as an abnormality at birth, but it can also be the result of an injury, such as stretched, torn, or damaged tendons.

Other causes include:

You also may have a higher risk of fallen arches if you are obese, have diabetes, or are pregnant. Flat feet also become more common as we age.

The arches of your feet aren't a design fluke. The biomechanics of the lower leg and foot is exceptionally complicated (think rocket science) and even a small disruption to the function of your leg and foot can cause crippling pain and injury.

What Happens When You Have Fallen Arches

Your fallen arches don't just leave you with full footprints in the sand. They can also cause other injuries to your feet and legs as a result of undue or new pressure on your ankle, tibia, or patella.

Here are a few of the common injuries or strains caused by fallen feet.

Knee Pain (Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome)

When your arches fall, it causes rotational changes to the way your ankle moves. Those changes make their way up to your knee, which can result in patellofemoral pain syndrome or knee pain.

You'll recognize the pain because the area behind your kneecap (where it meets your thigh bone) suffers. In most cases, the pain is gradual. It starts as a nagging feeling but makes its way up to a point where sitting, standing, walking, and running are all painful.

To get rid of the pain, you need both physiotherapy and a fix for your fallen arches (assuming they are the root cause).

Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is a common strain injury that causes crippling pain in your heel and occasionally in your arch. It's particularly common among runners and hikers, as well as people who stand eight hours a day.

What hurts when you have plantar fasciitis? The cause is inflammation of the plantar fascia. Your plantar fascia connects the heel to the toes and runs along the bottom of your foot.

The strain caused by flat feet on the rest of your foot can cause plantar fasciitis.

We often treat plantar fasciitis with physical therapy, night splints, or custom orthotics (arch supports). These interventions distribute the pressure on your foot correctly to relieve the cause of inflammation.

Achilles Tendinitis

When you have flat feet, you have an increased range of motion in your midfoot - and it's abnormal. To keep up, your Achilles tendon needs to work harder, which can lead to strain and Achilles tendinitis.

Symptoms of tendonitis include tight calf muscles, difficulty achieving a full range of motion when you flex your foot or swelling in your heel.

To fix flat feet-induced Achilles tendonitis, we need to treat both the overpronation and use the RICE method. You may also need to reduce your physical activity and use stretching techniques for your lower legs.

Shin Splints (Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome)

The excessive pronation cause by flat feet puts both additional and altered stress on your lower leg. It impacts the inside of your tibia (your shin), which can lead to shin splints.

Shin splints cause a dull ache in the front of the lower leg, around your bone (or in the muscles).

Not everyone who deals with flat feet also experiences shin splints. It often occurs in conjunction with overpronation along with overtraining.

However, you will need to adjust your activity levels according to the pain you experience. If your shin splints get worse during physical activity, or you deal with pain all the time, then you need to stop all activity.

Treating shin splints caused by flat feet requires treatment for the fallen tendons as well as ice and elevation (and potentially anti-inflammatories) for the shin splints.

Tibialis Posterior Tendinopathy

There is a tendon that connects the inside of your lower leg to the back of your ankle bone and joins your midfoot. Thanks to the stress of flat feet, the tendon (tibialis posterior) can experience

Other causes include over-training, a change in training surface, wearing high heels (toe walking), hill running.

If you have tibialis posterior tendinopathy, you will have pain when you walk, run or jump. This form of tendinopathy's most recognizable characteristic is the limp that accompanies it. 

To deal with the inflammation, you'll need to reduce your activity and use the RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) method. When flat feet are the cause, you need to fix them to relieve the pressure on your tibialis posterior.

Fallen Arches Can Cause Many Painful Injuries

Your arches are more than random design. The gently curving arch supports the biomechanics of your foot, ankle, lower leg, and knee. When you have fallen arches or flat feet, everything in your leg changes.

The pressure from these changes can cause injuries to the tendons and other tissues in your feet, lower leg, and knee. You won't find relief from those injuries unless you fix your fallen arches.

An experienced podiatrist can help your feet work the way they should. Click here to learn how we can help protect your feet (and ankles, legs, and knees) so that you can walk through life pain-free.

Author
Dr. Petkov Dr. Velimir Petkov, is a trusted podiatrist practicing at Premier Podiatry in Clifton, NJ. He has over 10 years of experience treating residents of NYC and North NJ for a wide variety of foot and ankle conditions. He prides himself on practicing podiatry with a personalized approach. Patients of Dr. Petkov appreciate his willingness to spend time with them during appointments, educate them about their foot conditions, and provide customized treatment options.

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