There is a difference between walking flat-footed and actually having flat feet or having fallen arches. The former is a choice (unconscious or not) that can be corrected), while the latter are conditions that may need medical treatment. Both are worth addressing, though, and they have distinct solutions.
When Are Flat Feet A Problem?
According to the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, around five per cent of adults in the U.S. have enough pain from their fallen arches that they go out of their way not to walk or exercise whenever possible. The ACFAS published guidelines ins 2005 to help clinics treat flat foot. Pain from flat feet and fallen arches may not be overwhelming, but it’s consistent and gets more powerful over time. This builds up and can limit affected people from engaging in a healthy lifestyle. For example, if you’re in pain every time you’re on your feet, you’re not going to be exercising, losing or maintaining weight, or generally being active in the way you should.
Flat feet can also have a negative impact throughout the body. According to one study from 2011, older adults suffering from flat feet had a higher risk of knee cartilage damage and general knee pain.
What Is Flexible Flat Foot?
Flexible flat foot is a condition in which your foot has a normal arch when you sit, but it becomes flat when you stand up. Current recommendations for flexible flat foot are focused on stretching exercises and carefully limiting which activities you engage in. Non-invasive treatments such as this are preferred. Stretching the calf muscles and Achilles tendon are believed to be of benefit in cases of flat foot. There are also prescription methods that can help, including special orthotic shoes and anti-inflammatory meds. Any sort of surgical treatment should be held off until other approaches have been tested and proven insufficient.
What Shoes Are Best For Flat Feet?
One major issue that people with flat feet run into is the tendency to overpronate or roll their foot inward when walking or running. Custom shoes can be used to limit this painful habit. However, overpronation is not an issue with all cases of flat feet. You should consult with a doctor to determine whether this is something you need to be addressed. Many prescription orthotics can be placed inside regular shoes. You’ll want to make sure you have shoes with a removable insole and plenty of room to hold the orthotic alongside your feet. Visit The Orthotic Shop for a great range.
What Is Adult-Acquired Flat Foot?
While flat feet can be a problem from a young age, serious conditions such as posterior tibial tendon dysfunction (PTTD) can lead to adult-acquired flat foot. In PTTD, the tibial tendon weakens to such a point that it can no longer support the arch of the foot. As a result, a person may suddenly develop flat foot. Unlike in cases of flexible flat foot, the foot will stay flat even when sitting in adult-acquired flat foot. Cases of adult-acquired flat foot are generally accompanied by severe arch pain and a loss of range of motion for one’s foot. Treatment for PTTD-caused flat foot includes wearing a cast, attending physical therapy, using anti-inflammatory medication, and wearing custom orthotics in your shoes. Surgery can also be considered if none of these approaches yields results or if the pain significantly worsens.
How To Address Walking Flat-Footed
Even if your arches are technically normal, it’s still possible to walk flat-footed. In a normal walking motion, the foot should come down on the heel, roll through the step, and push off of the toe. When you walk flat-footed, the heel flattens out against the ground rather than rolling through. In some cases, flat-footed walkers will even put down their foot mid-sole rather than heel first. Walking flat-footed can cause major pain in the shins and other areas.
One of the main causes of flat-footed walking is simply bad shoes — specifically shoes that are too inflexible. Many shoes on the market today, from boots to walking shoes, have extremely stiff soles. When the shoe is too stiff, it becomes harder or even impossible for your foot to roll through a step the way it is supposed to. If you notice yourself walking flat-footed and developing pain from it, you should look for a softer, more flexible pair of shoes that will allow your feet more freedom of movement.