The majority of people will experience a flattening of the arch
of the feet as we age. This is a natural part of the
aging process for most, as the years of abuse we put on our feet causes weakening of the soft tissue structures that support the arch of the foot and gravity dictates that the feet tend to flatten
out. When flattening of one of the feet occurs rapidly over a relatively short period of time this may signal a more serious problem.
Damage to the posterior tendon from overuse is the most common cause for adult acquired flatfoot. Running, walking, hiking, and climbing stairs are activities that add stress to this tendon, and this
overuse can lead to damage. Obesity, previous ankle surgery or trauma, diabetes (Charcot foot), and rheumatoid arthritis are other common risk factors.
Depending on the cause of the flatfoot, a patient may experience one or more of the different symptoms here. Pain along the course of the posterior tibial tendon which lies on the inside of the foot
and ankle. This can be associated with swelling on the inside of the ankle. Pain that is worse with activity. High intensity or impact activities, such as running, can be very difficult. Some
patients can have difficulty walking or even standing for long periods of time. When the foot collapses, the heel bone may shift position and put pressure on the outside ankle bone (fibula). This can
cause pain on the outside of the ankle. Arthritis in the heel also causes this same type of pain. Patients with an old injury or arthritis in the middle of the foot can have painful, bony bumps on
the top and inside of the foot. These make shoewear very difficult. Occasionally, the bony spurs are so large that they pinch the nerves which can result in numbness and tingling on the top of the
foot and into the toes. Diabetics may only notice swelling or a large bump on the bottom of the foot. Because their sensation is affected, people with diabetes may not have any pain. The large bump
can cause skin problems and an ulcer (a sore that does not heal) may develop if proper diabetic shoewear is not used.
In diagnosing flatfoot, the foot & Ankle surgeon examines the foot and observes how it looks when you stand and sit. Weight bearing x-rays are used to determine the severity of the disorder.
Advanced imaging, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CAT or CT) scans may be used to assess different ligaments, tendons and joint/cartilage damage. The foot &
Ankle Institute has three extremity MRI?s on site at our Des Plaines, Highland Park, and Lincoln Park locations. These extremity MRI?s only take about 30 minutes for the study and only requires the
patient put their foot into a painless machine avoiding the uncomfortable Claustrophobia that some MRI devices create.
Non surgical Treatment
There are many non-surgical options for the flatfoot. Orthotics, non-custom braces, shoe gear changes and custom braces are all options for treatment. A course of physical therapy may be prescribed
if tendon inflammation is part of the problem. Many people are successfully treated with non-surgical alternatives.
Surgical intervention for adult acquired flatfoot is appropriate when there is pain and swelling, and the patient notices that one foot looks different than the other because the arch is collapsing.
As many as three in four adults with flat feet eventually need surgery, and it?s better to have the joint preservation procedure done before your arch totally collapses. In most cases, early and
appropriate surgical treatment is successful in stabilizing the condition.