Combating Fallen Arches


Acquired Flat Feet

If you take a close look an adult foot (from the inside) you will notice an inward/upward curve at the center. This curve is known as an arch, and it?s formed by tendons in the foot and lower leg attached at the heel and foot bones. When these tendons pull and attach normally, the foot forms a normal arch. When the tendons don?t pull together properly, they don?t form any arch. This results in flat feet popularly known as fallen arches.


If you tend to pronate, roll your foot and ankle in when you walk or run you may cause your arch to fall. Pronating your foot and ankle interferes with the normal movement of your foot. You should land on your heel first and roll through the middle of your foot. Landing on the inside of your foot stresses foot and ankle bones, tendons and ligaments. This can lead to many problems including flat feet. Your podiatrist can examine the way you land on your foot and then design orthotics to help you move correctly. It is important to wear the right shoes for an activity, to provide necessary arch support. Making these corrections can relieve symptoms.


A significant number of people with fallen arches (flat feet) experience no pain and have no problems. Some, however, may experience pain in their feet, especially when the connecting ligaments and muscles are strained. The leg joints may also be affected, resulting in pain. If the ankles turn inwards because of flat feet the most likely affected areas will be the feet, ankles and knees. Some people have flat feet because of a developmental fault during childhood, while others may find that the problem develops as they age, or after a pregnancy. There are some simple devices which may prevent the complications of flat feet.


People who have flat feet without signs or symptoms that bother them do not generally have to see a doctor or podiatrist about them. However, if any of the following occur, you should see your GP or a podiatrist. The fallen arches (flat feet) have developed recently. You experience pain in your feet, ankles or lower limbs. Your unpleasant symptoms do not improve with supportive, well-fitted shoes. Either or both feet are becoming flatter. Your feet feel rigid (stiff). Your feet feel heavy and unwieldy. Most qualified health care professionals can diagnose flat feet just by watching the patient stand, walk and examining his/her feet. A doctor will also look at the patient's medical history. The feet will be observed from the front and back. The patient may be asked to stand on tip-toe while the doctor examines the shape and functioning of each foot. In some cases the physician may order an X-ray, CT (computed tomography) scan, or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan.


Non Surgical Treatment

Treatment often consists of giving the affected foot support from underneath so that the strain is taken off it (by the use of insoles or support pads) and so symptoms are relieved. A specialist in this problem is known as a podiatrist and these do work in the NHS - ask you father's doctor whether his condition is bad enough to warrant a referral to such a specialist.

Surgical Treatment

Acquired Flat Foot

Common indications for surgery are cerebral palsy with an equinovalgus foot, to prevent progression and breakdown of the midfoot. Rigid and painful Pes Planus. To prevent progression, eg with a Charcot joint. Tibialis posterior dysfunction, where non-surgical treatment is unsuccessful. Possible surgical procedures include Achilles tendon lengthening. Calcaneal osteotomy, to re-align the hindfoot. Reconstruction of the tibialis posterior tendon. For severe midfoot collapse of the arch, triple arthrodesis may be indicated.

After Care

Patients may go home the day of surgery or they may require an overnight hospital stay. The leg will be placed in a splint or cast and should be kept elevated for the first two weeks. At that point, sutures are removed. A new cast or a removable boot is then placed. It is important that patients do not put any weight on the corrected foot for six to eight weeks following the operation. Patients may begin bearing weight at eight weeks and usually progress to full weightbearing by 10 to 12 weeks. For some patients, weightbearing requires additional time. After 12 weeks, patients commonly can transition to wearing a shoe. Inserts and ankle braces are often used. Physical therapy may be recommended. There are complications that relate to surgery in general. These include the risks associated with anesthesia, infection, damage to nerves and blood vessels, and bleeding or blood clots. Complications following flatfoot surgery may include wound breakdown or nonunion (incomplete healing of the bones). These complications often can be prevented with proper wound care and rehabilitation. Occasionally, patients may notice some discomfort due to prominent hardware. Removal of hardware can be done at a later time if this is an issue. The overall complication rates for flatfoot surgery are low.