The normal arch functions as a shock absorber for our entire body. Each time we step down, we place up to 5 times our body weight on the foot, depending on whether we are walking, running, or jumping. If there was no shock absorber in the foot, the force of each step would eventually fracture or dislocate the bones of the foot, leg, and lower back. When the arch is flat (a flat foot), it is "sick" and cannot function properly. If left untreated, this will lead to a completely collapsed foot which cannot function as a shock absorber at all; and, this in turn will cause constant pain in the foot, and eventually the knee, hip, and lower back.
Causes: The normal arch is made up of bones and joints which are held tightly together in a precise relationship. In order for the arch to flatten out, the ligaments and tendons which hold the bones and joints together must be more flexible than normal. This abnormal flexibility may be a result of: the genes we inherit from our parents, the weakening of muscles and ligaments caused by advancing age, neuromuscular diseases, or injury. Injuries may include one severe trauma, or years of standing for long periods of time in the wrong types of shoes (those with high heels or those with poor support). This flexibility of the bones, joints, and soft tissues is what causes the foot problems which are related to flat arches or feet. The following conditions are the most common foot problems seen in flat feet:
1. PRONATION is the most common and damaging medical problem that may occur as a result of flat arches. Pronation is a turning outward of the foot at the ankle, so that one has a tendency to walk on the inner border of the foot. You can test for pronation by looking at the leg and foot from the back. Normally you can see the Achilles Tendon run straight down the leg into the heel. If the foot is pronated, the tendon will run straight down the leg, but when it lies on the heel, it will twist outward. This makes the inner ankle bone much more prominent than the outer ankle bone. Because pronation is a twisting of the foot, all of the muscles and tendons which run from the leg and ankle into the foot will be twisted. If left untreated, pronation may be the cause of heel spurs, plantar fasciitis, frequent ankle sprains, shin splints, weak and painful arches, and eventually knee, hip, and lower back pain. (More information about each of these resulting disorders is available here.)
2. STRUCTURAL DEFECTS are foot problems that may occur because the bones and joints of the foot are not held together with the normal amount of tension. This allows the bones and joints to move into abnormal positions causing: bunions, hammertoes, neuromas, calluses, and corns. If these problems are left untreated, they become progressively more painful and debilitating. (More information about each of these resulting disorders is available here.)
Treatment in the child and adolescent must be directed to supporting the individual bones and joints which make up the arch, and to aid the arch in its job as a shock absorber during the individual's growing years. This support of the individual components of the arch will prevent the arch from flattening out further as growth continues, allowing a normal arch to be formed. Aiding the development of a normal arch is accomplished through the use of custom-made orthotics. Custom-made orthotics allow the all-too-flexible muscles and ligaments in the foot and ankle to tighten as growth continues, while taking over the job of a shock absorber. The use of custom-made orthotics will help to prevent biomechanical and structural foot problems from developing, thus reducing the probability of the following diseases from occurring in adulthood: pronation, shin-splints, bunions, heel spurs, plantar fasciitis, serious ankle injuries, and hammertoes.
Custom-made orthotics are medical devices that gently support not only the arch, but each individual bone and joint which makes up the arch; and, because of the space-age materials used in their construction, custom-made orthotics allow the arch to become a much more efficient shock absorber. Over-the-counter arch supports will not allow the growing foot to produce a more normal arch, because they do not support the individual components of the arch and foot, thus allowing the arch to collapse further. Custom-made orthotics will help to prevent the further collapse of the arch and foot.
Treatment in the adult must be directed to supporting the individual bones, joints, and muscles which make up the arch; and to provide adequate shock absorption for the entire body. This will help to alleviate pain in the foot, ankle, leg, knee, hip, and lower back. Preventing pain and the total collapse of the arch is accomplished through the use of custom-made orthotics. Custom-made orthotics are medical devices which gently support not only the arch, but each individual component of the arch and foot. Also, because of the state-of-the-art materials used in the construction of custom-made orthotics, they allow the arch to become a much more efficient shock absorber. This not only relieves arch and foot pain, but prevents the pain from returning, and keeps the arch from flattening out further. Custom-made orthotics help to relieve the pain caused by bunions, hammertoes, heel spurs, plantar fasciitis, shin splints, neuromas, and muscle weakness. Over-the-counter arch supports may give temporary relief, but because they do not support the individual components of the arch, the pain will return; and as the support wears out, the arch will fall further (custom-made orthotics do not wear out; they last for years).
Custom-made Orthotics: Our custom-made orthotics for the treatment of flat feet have been developed over the past 30 years. What makes these orthotics unique is their ability to support the individual components of the arch, not just the "arch" as a whole, and to act as an efficient shock absorber. Our custom-made orthotics are constructed of the latest space-age thermoplastic materials. These materials not only provide the support which is needed, but they also have a "memory." This memory allows the orthotic to compress slightly when pressure is applied to it, but when the pressure is released, the orthotic returns to its original height and shape. This ensures maximum comfort, while guaranteeing that the arch will always be supported at its most efficient height. In children this will help to promote the development of a normal arch, and act as a shock absorber during the growing years. In an adult, our custom-made orthotics help to prevent the further collapse of the arch; they act as shock absorbers and they will help to reduce pain in the arches, the entire foot, leg, knees, hips, and lower back. These custom-made orthotics are comfortable, will last for years, and will fit into all flat shoes, and shoes with heel heights of up to 1 1/2 inches.
People with flat feet have also found these products to be effective: