Are flat feet responsible for increasing amounts of overall foot pain? The simple answer is that it IS likely that your flat feet are, at least, contributing to your foot pain – if not the actual cause of the foot pain you are having.
Ideally, your foot should have three arches:
First off, is the main one on the inside of your foot that everyone already knows about.
Secondly, there should then be a slight arch on the outside of your foot. This arch is located between the heel and the “knuckle” of the 5th toe.
Lastly, you should then have an arch in the front of your foot; formed by a slight elevation across the underside of the balls of the feet.
There’s More Than One Arch In Your Foot!
When you have flat feet, typically there is a loss of all three of the arches mentioned. Flat feet place undue stress on the structures along the bottom of the feet in many ways.
First, flat feet place stress on the plantar fascia (bottom of your feet) that connects from the heel to the balls of your feet. With flat feet, the plantar fascia is lengthened or overstretched beyond its normal boundaries.
This issue causes pain at the center and inside of the heel and the bottom of the foot from the heel to the balls of the feet.
Second, when you have flat feet, the primary muscle that supports your arch and runs down the inside of your lower leg is overstretched.
Unfortunately, when this muscle and tendon become overstretched, they cannot perform the job asked of them; to support the foot’s arch when standing, walking, or running.
Finally, flat feet cause problems at the front part of your foot, too. The loss of the arch in the front of the foot leads to discomfort. Boiled down, the nerves that run between the toes can become compressed.
This compression of nerves can show up as a “wadded sock” feeling under the balls of the feet. In other words, when you walk or stand, the ball of your foot feels like you are standing on something abnormal like a wadded sock or a pebble.
However, when you take your shoe and sock off, you discover you actually do not have a wadded sock or a pebble under the balls of your feet. The irritation of the nerves that run between the toes causes swelling, numbness, tingling and burning in the toes.
So, What Can I Do About My Flat Feet?
I Want To Get Back To Living Life!
Thankfully, there is hope! Successful treatment of flat feet and the issues that come with them is multifaceted. First of all, if you don’t address the soft tissue tightness, inflammation and irritation, as well as the tight and weak muscles surrounding your feet and ankles, nothing else you try will work either.
For example, when someone comes to see me who has pain and soreness in their plantar fascia (band of connective tissue that travels from your heel to the balls of your feet), in essence, they have pain at the front/inside of the heel and arch, many times they cannot walk without limping especially during the first few steps after getting up from sitting or getting out of bed in the am.
Some folks with heel and arch pain (plantar fasciitis) have pain so severe they walk in on their toes and cannot allow their heel to touch the ground at all.
If I don’t address this soft tissue tightness and irritation, the patient will continue to suffer. So, how do I resolve this? It depends on the individual, as we try to develop a custom rehab plan for each patient.
However, generally, we employ hands-on deep soft tissue release techniques, then we stretch out the joints and muscles of the foot and ankle to make sure both are as mobile as they should be to allow the foot to function correctly in weight-bearing.
Next, we apply special taping techniques that serve to support the arch and heel, and train the muscles to maintain proper foot position, which decreases pain at the arch and heel.
We then develop a specific strengthening program to strengthen and stabilize the muscles surrounding the ankle and especially the muscles that are to be supporting the arches of the feet.
And finally, we train the patient how to walk correctly again. That might sound weird, but when you have pain in your heel or arch, your body often causes you to walk incorrectly. For example, when suffering foot pain, you may start walking on the outside of your foot, or on the balls of your feet, just to get away from the pain.
In turn, this action causes pain in other parts of the same foot or even initiates pain in the foot that used to be OK!
Once we have addressed the soft tissue tightness, irritation, and improper walking mechanics, the next step is to be fitted with the proper shoe for your specific foot type and ensure that the shoe is the appropriate width and length for your foot.
You may be wondering…
Why Is This Important?
Well – it’s a good question. Let’s answer it.
When you have flat feet, generally you have a wider foot. This situation is caused when you stand up, as your arch drops. This, in turn, flattens out your foot and pushes the front of the foot outward.
This issue causes the foot to widen in weight-bearing. In light of that, you should be fitted with a shoe that is “straight-lasted”. Effectively, that means that the shoe’s arch does not cut in toward your arch but runs in more of a straight line from the balls of the feet to the heel – just like your flat feet do!
Equally important is getting the proper length and width shoe. If the shoe is too short, then the shoe’s arch is not hitting the arch of your foot leading to poor arch support and possibly making the problem you started with worse.
Lastly, if the shoe is too narrow, which often happens with folks with flat feet, the shoe can rub your feet causing callus formation, blisters or irritation of the nerves between your toes as your foot is being squeezed like a vice.
Hang on a bit longer – we’re almost there! The last component to achieving success with addressing your flat feet and foot pain is to be fitted with a custom orthotic. You may be asking, what in the world are custom orthotics? Well, that’s another excellent question!
Custom orthotics are a semi-rigid device made specifically for your individual feet that support your arch, re-align your foot and distribute the pressure across your foot.
Orthotics go inside your shoe, under your foot and take the place of the removable inlay (padded sock-liner) in your shoe. At Cardin and Miller Physical Therapy, we have been fitting patients and achieving successful outcomes with custom orthotics for the past 15 years.
We use a technologically advanced 3D pressure scanning system to record and show you what your feet are doing (right and wrong) when standing and walking. From this information, we develop a custom foot orthotic just for you.
So, there you have it; a blueprint for success for addressing your flat, painful feet so you can get back to doing the things you need, want and love to do without letting your feet “get in the way.”
How Good Would It Be…?
- To walk without a limp
- To stand without needing to sit due to foot pain
- To keep up with your kids or grandkids
- To return to your exercise routine or recreational activities
We can help you reach these goals. We don’t just generalize your condition. Instead, we will work with you to craft a custom treatment package that’s best for you. After all, we are all unique as individuals and built differently. What works for others may not necessarily work for you.
Call Cardin and Miller Physical Therapy today at 717-245-0400 to schedule your free screen, which is a one-on-one session with one of our physical therapists. Or, why not get in touch with us through our contact page?
Get A Free Foot Screening With Cardin & Miller!
We will spend time listening to how your pain began and the specifics of what you are experiencing during the free screen. From there we can tell you what the next best step is to address your flat feet, so that you can get back to living your life, without missing out on all the things you need, want and love to do.
It’s time to ditch the painkillers and get you back to health. We have clinics in Carlisle, Harrisburg, and Mechanicsburg – our expert and friendly staff would be delighted to assist in getting you back on your feet (comfortably) again. We also offer effective physical therapy treatments for back pain, knee pain, shoulder pain, and foot/ankle pain.
We look forward to hearing from you and helping you out!