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).
There are many causes for a high arch (cavus) foot. In the United States, the most common cause for a high arch foot is a form of muscular dystrophy called hereditary sensorimotor neuropathy. Most people recognize this by the more commonly used name of Charcot Marie Tooth disease (CMT). This is a disease of the muscles and the nerves of the legs, and occasionally of the hands, in which certain muscles weaken while others retain their strength. The condition is transmitted as an autosomal dominant condition. This means that 50% of the offspring will statistically inherit the disorder. This is, however, just a statistic. In some families, all the children develop the condition while in others, none inherit it.
Bones and ligaments work together to form joints, and bones are joined together by ligaments. Strains occur in ligaments. In the arch, there are ligaments that are located at the ends of each bone. These ligaments connect the bones to other bones on both ends and on the sides. Point tenderness and looseness of a joint are indicators of a sprain. Fractures are indicated by point tenderness that may be severe over the area of bone that is affected. There may be a distinguishable lump or gap at the site of the fracture. A rotated toe or forefoot may also be a sign of a fracture.
The doctor will take a brief history to determine how the injury occurred. If necessary, a thorough physical exam may be conducted to evaluate for any other injuries. Taking your workout shoes to the exam may also provide valuable information to the medical practitioner. Both feet will be physically and visually examined by the medical practitioner. The foot and arch will be touched and manipulated possibly with a lot of pressure and inspected to identify obvious deformities, tender spots, or any differences in the bones of the foot and arch.
Non Surgical Treatment
Though most FFF are asymptomatic (no pain or discomfort), they should still be addressed as it is not normal to have flat feet. Obviously it is always ideal to prevent a problem rather than treat it after it occurs, especially if FFF is being treated post-foot development. As mentioned earlier, barefoot is the best way to prevent FFF and a host of other foot and gait imbalances. To truly strengthen the entire foot and all the arches, it?s important to position the foot correctly at all times so when wearing something on the feet, footwear should be flat, firm, and flexible. This means that the shoe should not have a significant, or any, heel to toe drop, there should be little to no cushion or padding in the sole, and the shoe should not be rigid anywhere - it should bend throughout the shoe and in any direction. The shoe should also be wide at the toe box allowing the toes to naturally splay apart.
The main goal of surgery is to reduce pain and improve function. It may also reduce other injuries such as repeated ankle sprains and broken bones. Surgery may be considered if there is no relief with physical therapy, changes in shoewear and/or changes in activity. Some patients will also have tendon problems, ankle weakness and foot fractures. These patients may require other procedures to address related problems. If you have medical problems that make surgery unsafe, any infections or blood vessel disease, cavus foot surgery may not be appropriate. The surgical procedures involved with the correction of the cavus foot are varied. Theses may include correction of the bony deformity, ankle looseness and the muscle imbalances that cause the deformity. The goal is to provide a foot that evenly distributes weight along both inside and outside edges. A variety of incisions may be needed to perform the procedures related to the correction of the cavus foot.
Achilles stretch. Stand with the ball of one foot on a stair. Reach for the step below with your heel until you feel a stretch in the arch of your foot. Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds and then relax. Repeat 3 times. Balance and reach exercises. Stand next to a chair with your injured leg farther from the chair. The chair will provide support if you need it. Stand on the foot of your injured leg and bend your knee slightly. Try to raise the arch of this foot while keeping your big toe on the floor. Keep your foot in this position. With the hand that is farther away from the chair, reach forward in front of you by bending at the waist. Avoid bending your knee any more as you do this. Repeat this 15 times. To make the exercise more challenging, reach farther in front of you. Do 2 sets of 15. While keeping your arch raised, reach the hand that is farther away from the chair across your body toward the chair. The farther you reach, the more challenging the exercise. Do 2 sets of 15. Towel pickup. With your heel on the ground, pick up a towel with your toes. Release. Repeat 10 to 20 times. When this gets easy, add more resistance by placing a book or small weight on the towel. Resisted ankle plantar flexion. Sit with your injured leg stretched out in front of you. Loop the tubing around the ball of your foot. Hold the ends of the tubing with both hands. Gently press the ball of your foot down and point your toes, stretching the tubing. Return to the starting position. Do 2 sets of 15. Resisted ankle dorsiflexion. Tie a knot in one end of the elastic tubing and shut the knot in a door. Tie a loop in the other end of the tubing and put the foot on your injured side through the loop so that the tubing goes around the top of the foot. Sit facing the door with your injured leg straight out in front of you. Move away from the door until there is tension in the tubing. Keeping your leg straight, pull the top of your foot toward your body, stretching the tubing. Slowly return to the starting position. Do 2 sets of 15. Heel raise. Stand behind a chair or counter with both feet flat on the floor. Using the chair or counter as a support, rise up onto your toes and hold for 5 seconds. Then slowly lower yourself down without holding onto the support. (It's OK to keep holding onto the support if you need to.) When this exercise becomes less painful, try doing this exercise while you are standing on the injured leg only. Repeat 15 times. Do 2 sets of 15. Rest 30 seconds between sets.