Flat feet is one of the most common foot problems affecting adults. It occurs when the tendons that bind the foot together become loose. As a person grows, these tendons should tighten to help form the foot’s medial longitudinal arch. This tendon tightening occurs in most people by the age of three.
Flat feet is often painless in adults, but it can lead to low back pain in certain individuals, as it affects the various lower extremity joints, from the feet on up the kinetic chain. If left unchecked, flat feet may impair a person’s gait and affect his or her ability to climb stairs and wear certain types of shoes. It can also interfere with the normal alignment of the legs. Flat feet can be “flexible and floppy,” or this condition can involve rigidity and lack of motion, depending on the underlying cause of this musculoskeletal health problem. A person may develop a flat foot on one or both sides of his or her body.
Flat feet treatment depends on the underlying cause of the problem, the symptoms a person is experiencing, and the likelihood of the condition progressing. Many people who have flat feet benefit from exercises that return the big toe to its normal anatomical position; that is, splayed away from the second toe and in line with its corresponding metatarsal bone. Proper toe orientation can be achieved with gentle stretching, the use of Correct Toes toe spacers and BlackBoard ToeBands, and the wearing of men’s or women’s footwear that’s widest at the ends of the toes. A foot on a flat surface (e.g., inside shoes without heel elevation or toe spring) and with toes splayed provides the basis of a strong arch, even if the arch is lower than what’s considered “normal.”
In rare cases, flat feet may be the result of a genetic or acquired rigid pes planovalgus. Individuals with these types of flat feet problems are often candidates for arch orthotics or surgery. Again, this is rare—most folks with “flat feet” do not fall into this category and may benefit from the natural strategies outlined above.