You might not be Mustang Sally (sorry, a music reference for those younger than 50), but you may have been told at some point that you have ‘Flat Feet’. It could also be that you’ve self-diagnosed flat feet, but what exactly are flat feet?

The truth, is that this is far too often an ‘easy’ label that can be applied, to what can actually be a number of different issues. There is certainly no single cause, effect, or course of treatment that can be applied to this label. The reality, is that if you do find yourself with a ‘flat foot’, then this can be really painful, and not always in the foot itself.

There are actually 3 arches in the foot, but the one usually concerned here, is the Medial Longitudinal Arch. If for some reason there is an issue with this giving way, or falling to use the more common term again, then this can indeed result in a flat(ter) foot. There are also a number of reasons why this could be the case.

Firstly, we are all born with flat feet, and the issue is one usually discovered after the age of 7, as our arches develop during the first 7 years or so of our lives. This is commonly an issue with the boney structure of the foot itself. Even once you are up and walking unsupported, the arch issue may not be quite so obvious, as the body tends to adapt and cope with the issue, with muscles and tendons holding the arch for as long as they can. At some point, this situation may change, possibly following an injury, after surgery somewhere else in the body like a knee or hip, and it might be the case that during rehabilitation, there is greater strain placed upon the foot, causing the arch to ‘fall’.

Secondly, the issue with the arch can be acquired. In this case, the issue is not an intrinsic structural one, but instead comes as a result of an injury perhaps, over-use, or quite simply, through old age; the result however is often the same.

Thirdly, there is sometimes a link between flat feet and plantar fasciitis, although it is unwise to always assume that one goes with the other, as this is certainly not the case. If you’re wondering what plantar fasciitis is, I’ve blogged about it before, but in a nutshell, it’s a severe pain, usually felt most in the heel, and is an inflammation of the tissue that runs across the bottom of the foot, and which joins the heel bone to the toes.

Whatever the cause of ‘flat feet’, the bigger issue is that once it occurs, it begins to impact on pretty much most of the body above it, from the foot itself, through the ankle, the knee, the hips, the spine……… you get the picture! This again, is generally because there is a change in gait and posture, which then affects the way we walk, stand, sit, sleep etc etc.

So, what can be done to treat flat feet? The key issue here, is to ensure that you get a full and thorough biomechanical assessment from a qualified Orthotist, as this will determine the best course of action. The solution is generally a non-invasive insole, that sits inside the shoe(s). It may be that a simple off-the-shelf insole will be sufficient to prevent further damage and reduce pain, but unless you seek professional help, you won’t know this, and trust me, simply putting something in your shoe and trying it for a few minutes/hours/even days, won’t be enough to establish whether it is working, or in fact creating further harm in the long term. It is possible, that in order to treat most effectively, you would need bespoke insoles, made specifically for your own prescription, but this can be discussed with the Orthotist during your assessment.

I guess the message here, is that if you think, or you are told that you have flat feet, don’t simply brush this off as something that will go away, as it won’t. Seeking help from a qualified and HCPC registered Orthotist, will begin the process of reducing pain, managing better posture, and preventing yers of pain in so many other parts of the body that aren’t the foot. Book an assessment today, and stop being Mustang Sally!

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