Flexible flatfeet are considered normal in young children because babies are not born with a normal arch. The arch may not form fully until sometime between ages 7 and 10. Even in adulthood, 15% to 25% of people have flexible flatfeet. Most of these people never develop symptoms. In many adults who have had flexible flatfeet since childhood, the missing arch is an inherited condition related to a general looseness of ligaments. These people usually have extremely flexible, very mobile joints throughout the body, not only in the feet. Flatfeet also can develop during adulthood. Causes include joint disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis, and disorders of nerve function (neuropathy).
Flat feet are often hereditary. Arch pain may also be caused by wearing shoes with inadequate support, standing or walking for long periods of time in high heels, or overuse of the feet during work or sports. Being overweight also places additional stress on the feet, especially the arches.
Plantar fasciitis is most often seen in middle-aged men and women, but can be found in all age groups. The condition is diagnosed with the classic symptoms of pain well focused deep in the heel area of the bottom of the foot. Often the pain from plantar fasciitis is most severe when you first stand on your feet in the morning. Pain often subsides quite quickly, but then returns after prolonged standing or walking. Plantar fasciitis is sometimes, but not always, associated with a rapid gain of weight. It is also sometimes seen in recreational athletes, especially runners. In these athletes, it is thought that the repetitive nature of the sports causes the damage to the fibrous tissue that forms the arch of the foot.
Your doctor may order imaging tests to help make sure your heel pain is caused by plantar fasciitis and not another problem. X-rays provide clear images of bones. They are useful in ruling out other causes of heel pain, such as fractures or arthritis. Heel spurs can be seen on an x-ray. Other imaging tests, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasound, are not routinely used to diagnose plantar fasciitis. They are rarely ordered. An MRI scan may be used if the heel pain is not relieved by initial treatment methods.
Non Surgical Treatment
Doctors commonly prescribe shoe inserts, or orthotics, to support the arch. These devices make walking and standing more comfortable for a person with fallen arches, reports the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Orthotics are typically worn with closed shoes. They are available over-the-counter or can be custom-made.
Surgery is considered only after 12 months of aggressive nonsurgical treatment. Gastrocnemius recession. This is a surgical lengthening of the calf (gastrocnemius) muscles. Because tight calf muscles place increased stress on the plantar fascia, this procedure is useful for patients who still have difficulty flexing their feet, despite a year of calf stretches. In gastrocnemius recession, one of the two muscles that make up the calf is lengthened to increase the motion of the ankle. The procedure can be performed with a traditional, open incision or with a smaller incision and an endoscope, an instrument that contains a small camera. Your doctor will discuss the procedure that best meets your needs. Complication rates for gastrocnemius recession are low, but can include nerve damage. Plantar fascia release. If you have a normal range of ankle motion and continued heel pain, your doctor may recommend a partial release procedure. During surgery, the plantar fascia ligament is partially cut to relieve tension in the tissue. If you have a large bone spur, it will be removed, as well. Although the surgery can be performed endoscopically, it is more difficult than with an open incision. In addition, endoscopy has a higher risk of nerve damage. The most common complications of release surgery include incomplete relief of pain and nerve damage. Most patients have good results from surgery. However, because surgery can result in chronic pain and dissatisfaction, it is recommended only after all nonsurgical measures have been exhausted.
Try these simple stretches to assist with relieving pain in your arches. (Note: Stretch slowly and gently. You should feel a moderate pull on the muscle and tendon but no pain. If these stretches are painful, stop and seek further advice from a health professional). STRETCH ONE. Stand at arm?s length from a wall with one foot in front of the other, forward knee bent. Keeping your back leg straight and back heel on the floor, lean into the wall until you feel a stretch in your calf. STRETCH TWO. This time, bend your back leg slightly, and lean into the wall. You should feel a stretch in the lower part of your calf. Hold each stretch for 20 seconds and repeat on each leg, a few times daily.