Flat feet occur when the arches on the inside of your feet are flattened instead of curved.
This causes the soles of your feet to completely or almost completely touch the floor when you stand.
Flat feet are also called pes planus or fallen arches.
It is very easy to see if you have flat feet.
Wet your feet completely, then walk on a surface where you can see your wet footsteps.
If your foot imprint is complete – meaning that you can see the entire sole of your foot on the wet imprint – then you have flat feet.
You will only see the outer part of your foot in the wet imprint if you have normal arches.
The arch provides an elastic connection between the front and back of your foot.
This elastic connection acts as a spring when you stand, walk or run, absorbing most of the shock produced by such movements before it reaches the bones of your lower leg and thigh.
This causes less weight to be focused on your knees and protects them to a certain extent from such force.
So yes, you can function quite normally, but your body has to compensate for the lack of foot arches.
You would have functioned even better if you had foot arches.
The head of the talus bone in the foot is displaced inwardly and forward from the navicular bone in a flat foot.
As a result, some of the foot’s ligaments and tendons are stretched, causing the arch of the foot to be lost.
If your arch is lost both when you are sitting or standing, then you are said to have a rigid flat foot.
If your arch is present when you are sitting or standing on tiptoe, but disappears otherwise, then you have a supple flat foot.
When you are a baby or toddler, you naturally have flat feet as the foot arch has not yet developed.
Don’t believe me? Watch a toddler’s wet footprints the next time one comes out of the swimming pool!
Most people develop arches during their childhood.
Some people, however, never develop arches at all.
Your foot arches can also sag and fall over time due to years and years of wear and tear.
Factors that make you at risk of “wear and tear” leading to flat feet are:
- Obesity (because of all the weight your poor arches have to carry!)
- Injury to the tendons or ligaments supporting or around the foot arch
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Old age
Many people with flat feet also have a shortened Achilles tendon.
Flat feet are usually not painful.
However, they can sometimes cause problems to your ankles and knees because the alignment of your legs is altered.
If you have no pain, you do not need to seek treatment.
However, if you have pain or just feel uncomfortable about having flat feet, you should visit a podiatrist (a doctor specialising in leg and foot disorders) or a shop specialising in podiatry.
I would encourage you to see the podiatrist first, as some shops may not have an in-house doctor.
The doctor may recommend you to:
- Wear orthotics or arch support
You have probably seen these; they are inserts that you can put into your shoes.
There are more and more shops in Malaysia now selling these or even specialising in them.
- Have special shoes or support made for your feet
Neither of these will cure your flat feet, but they can definitely reduce symptoms and help you walk and stand better.
Your doctor may also recommend stretching exercises if you have a short Achilles tendon associated with your flat feet.
You should also strive to wear shoes instead of slippers when you go walking or exercising.
You can run and do normal sports with flat feet, but you are more prone to injury than people with arches, so it is recommended that you use shoes with orthotics and avoid slippers as much as possible.
There are also orthotic slippers with arch support, but it is preferable that you use shoes to walk and exercise.
Surgery can also be done to correct flat feet that are problematic.
Dr YLM graduated as a medical doctor, and has been writing for many years on various subjects such as medicine, health, computers and entertainment. For further information, email firstname.lastname@example.org. The information contained in this column is for general educational purposes only. Neither The Star nor the author gives any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to such information. The Star and the author disclaim all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.