In the normal foot, the inner part of the foot is slightly raised off the ground to form an arch. This arch helps to evenly distribute the body weight on the feet, prevent stress on the foot and improve balance. Sometimes, people have low arches or fallen arches (flat foot) in one or both the feet. This leads to increased weight bear on the inner side of the foot while standing and walking.
Flat foot causes over-pronation of foot and the foot pointing outward. This may lead to pain in the foot. Sometimes it also causes pain in the calf, knee, hip or back.
Causes of flat foot
- Due to injury to ankle or foot
- Arthritis or nervous system diseases leading to weak arches
- Obesity or weight gain in pregnancy may sometimes cause low or flattened arches.
Types of flat foot
- Flexible flat foot
- Rigid flat foot
How to know whether you have a flexible or rigid flat foot
If you have flat foot during standing, check whether the foot arches reappear in following positions:
- When the feet are placed on bed
- When you curl your toes
- When you stand on tiptoes.
If the arches reappear in any of these positions, you have a flexible flat foot. If the arches do not reappear, you have a rigid flat foot.However, it is advisable to consult a doctor to confirm the diagnosis.
Treatment for flexible flat foot
The flexible flat foot can be corrected by strengthening of the muscles which help to maintain the arch. To confirm that the arch is flexible and to correctly learn the strengthening exercises, consult a physiotherapist for guidance. The following exercises will improve the arch:
1) Stretching of calf muscle: This will ensure that the flexibility of foot is maintained. You can stretch the calf muscle by sitting with your legs kept straight. Pull your foot towards you with a towel.
Alternately, you can stand with your toes against the wall and lean forward keeping your knee straight.
2) Towel crumpling: Sit with foot on the floor. Place a towel on the floor and crumple it by curling your toes without moving the heel.
3) Rolling the ball: Sit with your foot on the floor. Place your foot on a small ball. Roll the ball forward and backwards.
4) Short foot: In standing position, clench the base of the foot without curling your toes. Hold the position for about 10 seconds. Repeat several times.
5) Standing on toes: Take support of chair or wall and stand on your toes for about 10 seconds. Repeat several times.
6) Walking on toes: Walk forward and backwards balancing on toes.
Use of arch supports for flexible flat foot
Until the arches normalize, use arch supports to reduce strain on foot.
1) Custom designed medial arch support: These are available as per shoe sizes or can be custom-made by an orthopaedist.
2) Medial arch inserts: These are made of silicon. They can be placed inside the shoes below the flattened arch.
3) Shoe modification: Insole of shoes can be modified to create a raise on the inner side.