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What are flat feet and how can they be treated?

flat feet

Flat feet result from a flattening of the arch of the foot, which causes the foot to tilt inwards. This deformity can cause pain and significantly impair quality of life. It is important to see a specialist to determine the type of flat feet and find the appropriate treatment. Especially in children, early treatment is crucial to avoid future problems.

Symptoms of flat feet

In addition to the obvious lack of arch support, there are other symptoms that may indicate flat feet:

  • Pain in the inner leg muscles
  • Pain in the back of the foot when the foot sinks in
  • Causes of flat feet

It is interesting to note that all people are born with flat feet. In most cases, they are flexible flat feet that correct themselves as the child grows.

In adults, however, flat feet can develop due to dysfunction of the posterior tibialis muscle, which supports the arch of the foot. If this muscle no longer works properly, the foot sinks further and further inwards.

Diagnosis of flat feet

Flat feet are diagnosed by podiatrists through a biomechanical examination of the gait pattern. A decisive factor in flat feet is their flexibility. They can be flexible, semi-flexible or rigid. Various biomechanical tests help to determine this:

Jack test: This involves lifting the big toe. If no arch is formed, the test is positive.

Heel Rise Test: When the patient stands on tiptoe, the arch of the foot should form and the heel should move outwards. If this does not happen, the test is positive.

Treatment of flat feet

Flat feet in children

A good diagnosis is crucial in children. Conservative treatment with exercises can often help to correct the deformity. From the age of four, a specialist can recommend customised insoles to improve the alignment of the foot and strengthen the muscles. In more severe cases, surgery may be considered.

Flat feet in adults

In adults, custom-made insoles made by a podiatrist using a 3D scan can minimise the effects of flat feet. Again, the insoles should be supported by exercises and stretching. In some cases, surgery may be necessary.

Who is affected by flat feet?

As already mentioned, children are born with flat feet and both sexes are equally affected. In adulthood, however, more women are affected by flat feet, especially after pregnancy or during the menopause. During these phases of life, the ligaments relax, which favours the development of flat feet.

Consequences of flat feet

Our feet are the foundation of our body and have an influence on our entire body structure. Flat feet often lead to increased fatigue as walking requires more energy. Other possible effects are

  • Heavy legs due to circulatory problems or muscle tension
  • Knee problems, as the axis of the knee joint is altered, which can lead to knock-knees (genu valgum)
  • Back problems, as flat feet promote a kyphotic posture in which the head and shoulders are tilted forwards

Take flat feet seriously and treat them

It is of the utmost importance to take care of our foot health and to consult a specialist early on if there are signs of flat feet. Timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment can prevent many of these complaints and significantly improve quality of life. Through a combination of customised insoles and targeted exercises, most problems associated with flat feet can be successfully managed.

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