Our feet act as the roots for our body so it is important that we treat them well! However, flat feet is a minor condition that affects nearly 10% of the Australian population. For most people, the condition doesn’t cause any major troubles, but it can still lead to some painful and dramatic effects on the body.
What are flat feet you may ask? It’s when the arch of the foot is either non-existent or is too flattened. This means the entire sole of the foot touches the ground when you are walking or standing. Our feet are not designed and are not supposed to form this way. As such, flat feet affect the body by tilting it out of it’s natural balance – quite literally! Many issues such as foot, ankle, leg and back pain can be due to flat feet not sufficiently supporting our bodies’ weight. Here, it will explain the causes of flat feet and how having flat feet can affect the body.
Causes of flat feet
Unfortunately, the condition is often hereditary and therefore is passed on within families. But, it can also be sustained through foot and ankle injuries. For example, highly active or older people are more likely to have falls or accidents and develop flat feet. Sadly, people with diseases such as cerebral palsy which affect our muscles are also at a higher risk. However, for babies and toddlers, having flat feet is natural as it takes time for the tendons in our feet to tighten and develop to form an arch.
Foot pain and problems
People will feel the pain from having flat feet on the inside of their ankle or on the foot. It will be most painful when standing or being active and the pain will relieve when resting. Inflammation can occur in the shinbone while running without the sufficient support from the foot. This can lead to needing shin splints when exercising. The toes can be affected as well, causing bunions through joint pain from putting excess pressure on the joint. Tension in the Achilles tendon can also cause tendinitis in the foot. This is due to the added stress put on the back of the heel and to the ankle. Hammertoes can develop as the toe curls upwards from the weak muscles in flat feet. Friction from rubbing against the inside of shoes can also cause calluses to develop. These conditions can all lead to extremely painful long – term consequences.
Chronic muscle strain is caused by the lack of stability in flat feet. The condition forces the other muscles in our body to overwork and try compensate for it. An arched foot is naturally strong enough to keep the body stable. But a flat arch can cause severe muscle strain for your body when you increase the level of your activity, even during everyday tasks. Muscle strain can spread throughout the body and spine causing other medical problems like migraines.
Leg and back pain
Flat feet cause many problems for the lower body as the feet are forcefully misaligned, causing people severe foot and ankle pain. The feet’s misalignment can affect the body upwards as the leg is made to rotate internally and twist at the knee. As the knee twists, the hip is pulled away from the pelvis, which then puts extreme pressure on the spine. Therefore, flat feet can gravely affect the lower back, hips and legs and this will continue to worsen with increased age and general wear and tear.
For children, it is essential that their feet be well supported during early development. As infants, feet start out flat but later they will to adapt to walking on irregular surfaces. This allows the body to correctly develop nerve, muscle and skeletal functioning. Children with flat feet walking on overly hard and flat surfaces will permanently mean the arches in their feet will not develop. This will set off many stresses for the body in later life such as joint and disc erosion, arthritis and consequent adult disabilities.
Health and exercise
It may not seem like your health is directly related to flat or misaligned feet. But, health issues like obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure can be worsened by it. For instance, if your exercise is limited because of flat feet, it will become harder for you to control these health issues. Exercise is highly recommended as a common treatment method for these issues as it is generally good for our health. However, exercise can be painfully tricky for those people with flat feet and this is when you need to see and be treated by a podiatrist or foot specialist.
To find out more about how one of our highly-trained podiatrists can help, give us a call on (03) 9442 2912 or visit us at 663 Plenty Rd in Reservoir.