How to Prevent Problems from Your Flat Feet

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Flat feet, fallen arches, or pes planus — whatever you call them, they cause aches, pain, and gait problems unless you take steps to correct them. Here are some practical tips to help you avoid the complications of flat feet.

If you were to line up 100 barefoot people, no two pairs of feet would look the same. Feet come in all sizes, shapes, and configurations, influenced by genetics, environment, health, and lifestyle. Given this range of variances, it may be difficult to determine what’s normal and what constitutes a foot problem.

That’s Dr. Matthew Cerniglia’s specialty. At the Ankle and Foot Institute of Texas in Saginaw, he helps you get to the bottom of your foot problems. If you’re experiencing unexplained ankle, leg, hip, or back pain, it could be due to fallen arches, and Dr. Cerniglia can help. Here, he explains flat feet and how to prevent the problems they may cause.

Anatomy of your foot arch

With 22 bones, 33 joints, and over 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments, your feet have a lot of moving parts. Each component must work in harmony with the others so you can stand, walk, jump, and dance. Your arches play a pivotal role by providing shock absorption, flexibility, and motion, but about 30% of the population has insufficient arch support.

Each foot has three arches: Two run the length of your foot from heel to toe, and one runs side to side. When speaking of fallen arches, it’s typically referring to the medial arch that makes the inner side of your foot arc upward.

Think of the medial arch as a spring that receives the force of each step you take and transfers it into energy that propels you forward. It also distributes your body weight, determines your gait, and keeps your body properly aligned. 

Why flat feet are a problem

If you have flat feet, it means you have little or no median arch, causing the sole of your foot to make full contact with the floor. This has ramifications for your entire body: Your ankles roll inward, tweaking the alignment of your knees, hips, and back. 

Some people are born with low or no arches, but children often outgrow the problem. For those who don’t, and for adults who develop fallen arches due to injury, illness, aging, or obesity, flat feet may cause a range of symptoms, including:

  • Foot pain
  • Swelling and stiffness in your ankles, legs, hips, and back
  • Uneven weight distribution
  • Unbalanced gait
  • Uneven wear on the soles of your shoes
  • Difficulty walking or running

Flat feet don’t always come with these symptoms; some people with fallen arches feel no pain or discomfort. 

If your flat feet aren’t causing any problems yet, it’s still a good idea to let Dr. Cerniglia evaluate your feet and gait to ensure you’re not developing any related issues. If you’re experiencing symptoms, schedule an appointment so we can help you prevent pain and other problems associated with flat feet.

Tips for preventing flat feet problems

You can address current or potential pain, stiffness, and inflammation of flat feet by incorporating these practical tips into your daily routine.

Give your feet a workout

Studies have shown that eight weeks of foot exercises can improve your gait and foot alignment. 

Controlled movements that gently stretch your Achilles tendon, flex and stretch your calf muscles, and stimulate the plantar fascia ligament that runs along the bottom of your foot (try rolling a golf ball under your foot) can increase circulation, decrease inflammation and pain, and help prevent tight conditions that lead to flat foot symptoms. 

Wear supportive shoes

Going barefoot isn’t recommended for folks with flat feet. You need all the support you can get, so choose shoes that provide the arch support you’re missing. 

Use custom orthotics

If shoes alone don’t offer enough support, we can prescribe custom-fitted orthotics that slip into your shoes and complete the job. Unlike shoe inserts available over the counter, our one-of-a-kind orthotics hug every contour of your feet, providing superior comfort and the exact level of support you need. 

Dr. Cerniglia may also recommend physical therapy to improve your gait and keep your body in better alignment. In rare cases, surgical intervention may be necessary. If so, your feet are in good hands with Dr. Cerniglia; he’s board certified in both foot and ankle surgery and considered one of the state’s leading podiatric surgeons. 

Call us or book a consultation online to have Dr. Cerniglia evaluate your arches and put you on the path to pain-free walking.