Flat feet (also called pes planus or fallen arches) is a formal reference to a medical condition in which the arch of the foot collapses, with the entire sole of the foot coming into complete or near-complete contact with the ground. In some individuals (an estimated 20–30% of the general population) the arch simply never develops in one foot (unilaterally) or both feet (bilaterally).
Adults can develop flat feet through injury, illness, unusual or prolonged stress the foot, or even as part of the normal aging process. Some pregnant women can get flat feet as a result of temporary changes, due to increased elastin (elasticity) during pregnancy.
Flat feet generally remain flat permanently if developed by adulthood.
Symptoms: Many medical professionals can diagnose a flat foot by examining the patient standing or just looking at them. On going up onto tip toe the deformity will correct when this is a flexible flat foot in a child with lax joints. Such correction is not seen in the adult with a rigid flat foot.
An easy and traditional home diagnosis is the “wet footprint” test, performed by wetting the feet in water and then standing on a smooth, level surface such as smooth concrete or thin cardboard or heavy paper. Usually, the more the sole of the foot that makes contact (leaves a footprint), the flatter the foot. In a normal to high arch this part of the sole of the foot does not make contact with the ground at all.
Treatment: Most flexible flat feet are asymptomatic, and do not cause pain. In these cases, there is usually no cause for concern, and the condition may be considered a normal human variant.
Treatment of flat feet may be appropriate if there is associated foot or lower leg pain, or if the condition affects the knees or the lower back. Treatment may include using Orthoses such as an arch support, or foot exercies as recommended by Dr. Shumate. In cases of severe flat feet, orthoses should be used through a gradual process to lessen discomfort. Once prescribed, orthoses are generally worn for the rest of the patient’s life.