One of the most common questions I get asked as a podiatrist is, “Have I got flat feet?”. The answer is not as simple as it may appear at first glance. I hope that this post will help shed some light on this question and whether you or someone close to you may benefit for podiatry treatment.
Simply put, there are feet which are truly flat, and those that behave as if they were flat when you stand or walk on them.
The true flat foot, called a structural flat foot or a “Pes Planus” foot type, is the true definition of foot flatness. They have little or no instep (medial arch), which is mostly, if not completely flat to the floor when they are standing. When their feet are not bearing weight, the arch will remain flat, and the movement of the mid-tarsal joint will often be severely restricted about its perpendicular axis.
On the other hand, some people have functional flat feet, which means that their feet that behave as if they were flat when they are standing and walking. When this person lies down, they will have a nice arch, which can range from slightly high, to slightly low. In addition to this, the mid-tarsal joint will often be flexible and mobile, sometimes even hypermobile. The important thing to bear in mind with a functional flat foot is that the feet are not truly flat, but only behave as if they are. In a way, the functional flat foot is a bit like fake flat foot. The reason this kind of foot collapses is often due to some small deviation in the alignments of the foot, ankle, or lower limb, that result in a compensation mechanism that causes foot flatness.
These compensations can often result in painful conditions affecting the foot, ankle, lower limb, knees, hips, and/or back, such as plantarfasciitis, “shin splints”, tibialis posterior tendon dysfunction, Achilles tendonitis, and metartarsalgia. These compensations also give rise to bunions (which are not inherited, per se), poor posture, osteoarthritis of the knee and hip, and poor gait during walking or sports.
The job of a podiatrist is to determine why the feet are collapsing this way, and to prescribe a combination of self-massage techniques, stretches, strengthening exercises, medical grade insoles, and in my case, acupuncture if the pain is significant. Thankfully, podiatry can help both the structural and functional flat foot, but it is important to treat them differently based on a thorough assessment, and not just throwing only old insole in there to see if it helps (sadly, this happens all to often).
If you think that you have flat feet, and want to treat an existing condition, or want to be pro-active and prevent any conditions arising in the future, then please feel free to contact us for a free consultation, and I will be happy to discuss the matter further with you in person.
For now, take care, and happy walking.
Ian Radford BSc(Hons) MChS FAcS
Podiatrist & Acupuncturist