Feet are very variable in shape within and between ethnic groups as well as in populations generally. There is not a normal profile but a wide variation with people with foot profiles at the extremes being very high arched or very low arched, with most people somewhere nearer the middle. What will dictate the general profile of a foot is the bony shape and the soft tissue support. The first thing to say about flat feet and fallen arches is that they are not medical terms and therefore have different meaning to different people. Therefore this question is not as easy as it first might seem. Pes Planus is the medical term for flat feet.
Generally fallen arches are a condition inherited from one or both parents. In addition, age, obesity, and pregnancy cause our arches to collapse. Being in a job that requires long hours of standing and/or walking (e.g. teaching, retail, hospitality, building etc) contributes to this condition, especially when standing on hard surfaces like concrete floors. Last, but not least unsupportive footwear makes our feet roll in more than they should.
Some people have fallen arches, and they aren?t even aware of it, fallen arches are sometimes asymptomatic and do not always cause pain. However, for others, the following symptoms may be present. Foot pain, particularly in the arches or heels, leg or back pain, feet feel tired quickly, swelling in the feet and difficulty moving the feet.
There are a few simple ways to assess your foot type, and most include making an imprint of your footprint. The classic way is to stand on a hard floor surface with wet feet to make a wet foot print. Look at the narrowest part of your footprint, which should be between your heel and ball of your foot. If the print of your foot in this part is less than 10% of the width of the widest part then you are likely to have high arches. more than 10% but less than 25% then your foot profile is probably normal, more than 25% or even the widest part, then you have flat feet.
What does it mean when you have flat feet?
Non Surgical Treatment
Physiotherapists will carry out a detailed biomechanical assessment of your feet and lower limb. Once the causes have been identified a number of treatment methods may be used to help relieve pain and restore function in the feet including the use of custom made orthotics to support the foot and offload the areas which are painful, strengthening exercises for weakened muscles and tendons in the arch, and massage and mobilisation techniques to help mobilise stiff tissue and joints in the foot.
Feet that do not respond to the treatments above may need surgery. The surgery will help to create a supportive arch.
Going barefoot, particularly over terrain such as a beach where muscles are given a good workout, is good for all but the most extremely flatfooted, or those with certain related conditions such as plantar fasciitis. Ligament laxity is also among the factors known to be associated with flat feet. One medical study in India with a large sample size of children who had grown up wearing shoes and others going barefoot found that the longitudinal arches of the bare footers were generally strongest and highest as a group, and that flat feet were less common in children who had grown up wearing sandals or slippers than among those who had worn closed-toe shoes. Focusing on the influence of footwear on the prevalence of pes planus, the cross-sectional study performed on children noted that wearing shoes throughout early childhood can be detrimental to the development of a normal or a high medial longitudinal arch. The vulnerability for flat foot among shoe-wearing children increases if the child has an associated ligament laxity condition. The results of the study suggest that children be encouraged to play barefooted on various surfaces of terrain and that slippers and sandals are less harmful compared to closed-toe shoes. It appeared that closed-toe shoes greatly inhibited the development of the arch of the foot more so than slippers or sandals. This conclusion may be a result of the notion that intrinsic muscle activity of the arch is required to prevent slippers and sandals from falling off the child?s foot.