Flat Feet describes a position of the foot that has kept numerous people out of the armed forces for decades.
However, a flat foot may neither be painful or bad. It may simply be the natural position for those patients to function in. There are many occasions however, where a flat foot can cause other painful conditions to develop and fester.
As an infant, we are born with a flatter foot than an adult to provide an increased base for stabilization. Over the next several years the arch height gradually increases and reaches its highest point some where between the ages of 7-9. From that point on, as we go through life, the arch height actually decreases.
Genetics has a large part to play in the starting position of the foot and arch height; the maximum height the foot reaches between ages 7-9; and how fast the arch breaks down over a life time.
Obviously, a highly active lifestyle also will accelerate the break down of the arch height and structure of the foot.
As the arch height begins to descend and activity remains high enough, the foot begins to develop instability. This instability is exhibited by movement of the bones of the foot. It is necessary for the ligaments, muscles of the foot and leg and the tendons that cross over the major joints to stabilize the bones. As the bones move around secondary conditions can and will develop such as bunions, hammer toes and tailor bunions as well as arthritis. Stress fractures can also develop if unequal amounts of stress are applied to bones over a specific time frame during a time of instability.
The muscles of the leg and their long tendons which insert onto the foot exert a stabilizing effect onto the foot during function. If the foot is unstable enough and the muscle/tendon complex must exert enough of a force, the ligaments, muscle or tendons may become injured during the process.
Conditions such as Adult Acquired Flat Foot (Posterior Tibial Tendon Insufficiency), Plantar Fasciitis, Tendonosis and Synovitis are all soft tissue strains and injuries that develop when the soft tissue is strained beyond its elastic point.
A Flat Foot therefore should be watched. At the first sign of trouble, intervention should be performed to help stabilize the foot and help prevent irreversible injury. Often times, custom orthotics, custom arch supports, can be utilized to stabilize the foot. At other times, the condition may have gone beyond what an orthotic can reasonably protect and surgical correction is utilized to stabilize what nature cannot.