Pes planus is the scientific term that describes low arch or "flat" feet. As podiatric physicians, we are very interested not only in structure but also in function of the feet. While very few people have 20-20 vision, it is also true that very few people have perfect arch structure. High and low arch feet are just the two ends of the spectrum of foot structure. The more deviation from what is considered perfect, the worse the function becomes. We describe deviation from "the ideal" as imbalance in structure. It is the imbalance in structure that leads to abnormal function. Abnormal function causes pain and/or deformity. Deformity can manifest itself in a variety of foot problems such as bunions or hammertoes. Likewise, pain can manifest itself in a variety of ways such as heel pain ( plantar fasciitis or heel spur), corns or calluses, metatarsalgia or pain in the ball of the foot ( neuromas, stress fractures, or tendonitis), or even in pediatric problems. Invariably, we can treat most foot imbalance or biomechanical insufficiencies with orthotic therapy.
Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome develops when there is compression on the tibial nerve as it passes through the tarsal tunnel on the inner side of the ankle bone (medial malleolus). It can cause pain on bottom of foot as well as pins and needles. Numbness in the heel can often extend down to the big toe and adjacent three toes. In addition, it may also produce hot and cold sensations along the bottom of the foot. Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome is caused by anything which occupies space in the tarsal tunnel including cysts, ganglions, bone spurs, swelling from ankle injuries or tumours. Treatment aims to reduce the foot arch pain and usually consists of rest, strengthening and stretching exercises, compression bandages and steroid injections. If the pain in bottom of foot persists, surgery may be required.
Most flat feet do not cause pain or other problems. Children may have foot pain, ankle pain, or lower leg pain. They should be evaluated by a health care provider if this occurs. Symptoms in adults may include tired or achy feet after long periods of standing or playing sports.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) can show tendon injury and inflammation but cannot be relied on with 100% accuracy and confidence. The technique and skill of the radiologist in properly positioning the foot with the MRI beam are critical in demonstrating the sometimes obscure findings of tendon injury around the ankle. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is expensive and is not necessary in most cases to diagnose posterior tibial tendon injury. Ultrasound has also been used in some cases to diagnose tendon injury, but this test again is usually not required to make the initial diagnosis.
Non Surgical Treatment
If the strain is severe enough, it can not only stretch but tear the plantar fascia. No matter what the cause of your problem, however, the end result is the same, foot pronation, a temporary case of "flat feet" and pain. The best treatment? Apply ice packs, followed by heat (to reduce inflammation), to the area for 20 minutes once a day. Rest is also essential. You will have to avoid any activity, in some cases, even standing or walking, that would increase the tear, until the tissue heals on its own (this can sometimes take up to six weeks). With strains and less severe tears, you may be able to walk on the foot with arch-support shoe inserts. You'll need to see your doctor for more permanent arch support. A doctor can also provide immediate relief from the pain of plantar fasciitis by giving you a local cortisone injection or prescribing anti-inflammatory medication.
A procedure that involves placing a metallic implant (most commonly) at the junction where the foot meets the ankle. This device causes the physical blockade that prevent the collapse. It is a procedure that is only indicated for mobile feet, and should not be used with rigid flat feet. Dr. Blitz finds this procedure better for younger patients with flexible flat feet where the bone alignment is still developing so that the foot can adapt to function in a better aligned position.
There are several things you can do to prevent pain on the bottom of the foot. Here are some tips to help you avoid this condition. Do simple stretches each day (See Plantar Fasciitis Exercises for a list of all exercises). Wear good shoes that fit properly and are appropriate for the activity you are participating in. Lose excess weight if possible. Build your stamina slowly, especially with new exercises. Rest and elevate your feet, whenever possible, keeping them at least twelve inches above your heart. Always follow your doctor?s instructions for treatment. Each day do a different activity. For example: one day ride your bike, and swim the next day.
Below are two simple plantar fasciitis stretching exercises to help improve the flexibility of the muscles and tendons around the foot and ankle. Plantar fasciitis stretch taken from The Stretching Handbook. Kneel on one foot and place your body weight over your knee. Keep your heel on the ground and lean forward. In the photo to the left, the athlete is stretching the arch of her left foot. Kneel on one foot with your hands on the ground. Place your body weight over your knee and slowly move your knee forward. Keep your toes on the ground and arch your foot. In the photo to the right, the athlete is stretching the arch of his right foot.