- Written by Dr. Charlton Woodly Dr. Charlton Woodly
As we age, we worry about the changes that are overtly affecting our bodies — whether that’s noticing wrinkles or paying attention to something that’s causing pain.
We overlook the fact that aging affects all parts of our bodies, even those that often go unseen, like our feet. But our feet keep us grounded — they are the foundation of the rest of our body and deserve our care and attention.
One of the most common issues people face as they age is flat feet.
What are Flat Feet?
“Flat feet” simply means there is a low arch or lack of an arch under the foot. All babies are born flat footed; as they grow, arches begin to develop.
For some, the arch never develops. For others, the arch will develop but can fall after an injury or experiencing the stress of age. This is because the tendons in your foot, or both feet, can become damaged.
The way I look at a flat foot is based on pronation, or the way your foot goes inward. The main tendon, which holds the arch of your foot up, eventually becomes damaged if it is stretched too much. This results in flat feet.
While this sounds like a minor inconvenience, flat feet can lead to strain on the entire body.
When you have flat feet, the pain you feel does not usually come from the feet but rather the knee. The foot is in an abnormal position, which makes your knee hurt.
A lack of an arch can stress your ankles, calves, knees, hips, lower back, and lower legs. Neck and back pain are extremely common from flat feet.
Warning Signs and Preventative Care
While flat feet can go unnoticed, there are some warning signs that treatment is needed.
For example, some people may feel pain in the arch or ankle, and this pain can get worse after being on your feet all day or working out. Some may notice swelling along the inside of the ankle as well.
It’s important to get your feet examined by a podiatrist to determine if you have flat feet and what steps to take moving forward.
For those who don’t have flat feet, a podiatrist can determine what preventative measures to take to avoid developing them, such as wearing protective footwear or losing weight.
There is a range of different methods to treat the symptoms of fallen arches and flat feet.
Most podiatrists will recommend being mindful of the shoes you wear. This means wearing extra-wide fitted shoes or orthotics that are custom designed to support your arch, which can relieve the arch and reduce pain. Custom inserts can also help by taking pressure off the tendon.
Medication for pain and inflammation helps in some cases. While these methods treat the symptoms, they are not long lasting.
Long-lasting treatment options include being conscious of your body and movement. This could mean losing weight to reduce pressure on your feet or not walking or standing for prolonged periods.
People may also resort to therapeutic massages, such as rolling a ball under your foot. A massage is a powerful treatment tool for soft tissue. It allows the muscle to release built-up tension, therefore reducing pain.
In more severe cases, individuals can turn to surgery. Surgery is minimally invasive and restores the tendons and ligaments that support the arch. This means it does not involve a long incision and avoids significant damage to the muscles and soft tissue surrounding the foot.
In most cases, this approach results in less pain after foot surgery and a faster recovery; patients can go in and leave the same day.
Though our feet are what keep us grounded, the arches of our feet shouldn’t be touching the ground. I recommend visiting a podiatrist to learn more about flat-feet prevention to make sure it’s not one of the issues you have to worry about as you age.
Dr. Charlton Woodly is a board-certified podiatrist with more than 14 years’ experience providing conservative and surgical treatments at Woodly Foot & Ankle in Texas. A specialist in minimally invasive procedures and a hyprocure master surgeon, Woodly is an expert in treating the full spectrum of foot and ankle conditions and injuries.