The arch of the foot is formed by the tarsal and metatarsal bones and is strengthened by ligaments and tendons that enable the foot to correctly support the weight of the body. The underside of the foot is made up of four layers of muscle tissue as well as a length of thick connective tissue called the plantar fascia, which supports the arch. If the surrounding muscles weaken, the plantar fascia will drop and the arch will collapse. If the arch collapses, the whole foot touches the ground, which is known as pes planus or flat feet. Flat feet affect about 15 per cent of Britons. Although usually genetic, the condition may be exacerbated or triggered by poorly fitted shoes or conditions such as arthritis and pregnancy, when sudden changes in shape and weight can alter the body's centre of gravity leading to a weakening of the arches.
Flatfoot can have many different causes. It could be a weakness or a structural abnormality you?ve had since birth. It could also mean that tendonitis, damage to the connective tissues, arthritis, or nerve problems have affected the structures in your feet. Even wearing unsupportive footwear can lead to weakness and arch pain. Whatever the cause, many conservative, noninvasive treatments exist to help relieve and eliminate your discomfort.
The groups of muscles that support the arch can be divided into two groups. The muscles on the top of the arch start on the front lower leg and help to lift the arch, and the muscles that help pull the arch on the bottom of the foot are located the on back of the lower leg. Muscle injury may be indicated when pain is felt when the foot is fully extended, flexed, or turned in or out. Pain may also be felt when working the foot against resistance. Bruises are the result of a direct-force injury to the body. A bruise can occur to the foot by a variety of causes, such as having your foot stepped on or by stepping on a rock. The tissues that compose the arch do not provide that area of the body much protection. Blows to the foot that result in pain, discoloration, swelling, and changes in how you walk may indicate more serious damage.
In a person of any age, the doctor will ask about occupational and recreational activities, previous foot trauma or foot surgery and the type of shoes worn. The doctor will examine your shoes to check for signs of excessive wear. Worn shoes often provide valuable clues to gait problems and poor bone alignment. The doctor will ask you to walk barefoot to evaluate the arches of the feet, to check for out-toeing and to look for other signs of poor foot mechanics.
Non Surgical Treatment
A new ankle foot orthosis known as the Richie Brace, offered by PAL Health Systems, has proven to show significant success in treating Stage II posterior tibial dysfunction and the adult acquired flatfoot. This is a sport-style brace connected to a custom corrected foot orthotic device that fits well into most forms of lace-up footwear, including athletic shoes. The brace is light weight and far more cosmetically appealing than the traditional ankle foot orthosis previously prescribed.
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.
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.