It is estimated that one in six adults worldwide suffers from flatfoot syndrome. In children and adolescents, the figure is even higher.
Being overweight and wearing uncomfortable shoes during childhood are two of the most common causes of flat feet.
The good news, with exercise and treatments, it is possible to alleviate it.
Flatfoot Syndrome: What is it?
Flatfoot syndrome is a phenomenon in the ligaments that makes the foot curvature straight. A person with flat feet deflects loads of the bodyweight inappropriately.
Therefore, one of the main consequences of flat feet is poor posture and alterations in the way you walk.
X-rays are the most accurate method to know if a person has flat feet. However, a specialized doctor can detect it just by seeing how the soles of the feet are supported.
The most common flat foot type is flexible; this is painless and most common in all ages.
The four types of flat feet are:
- Flexible flat foot
This is one of the most common types of flat feet. It is usually asymptomatic. The arch appears and disappears when you support it or keep your foot in the air. Mobility in the upper part of the foot and ankle is complete and painless.
- Flat foot with short Achilles tendon
This is one of the types of flat feet with difficulty in vertical foot mobility or ankle dorsiflexion. A flatfoot person with a short Achilles tendon experiences difficulty with exercise and a constant feeling of fatigue. It is common for them to feel pain in their calves or ankles.
- Rigid valgus flat foot
This is one of the less common types of flat feet. The easiest way to tell it apart is severe pain in the top of the foot when walking and constant sprains. It is usually detected in the adolescence stage.
- Flatfoot talus vertical
Of the flatfoot types, this is the most dangerous. It is usually detected from birth or in the first years of life. Neurological diseases or genetic mutations generally accompany it. Its treatment is the most complex and requires the most attention, from childhood to adult life.
Flat feet in children and adolescents
Flexible flatfoot is suffered by approximately 15% of the world’s population; it is up to 25% more frequent in adolescents and 50% more in preschool children. (3)
Flat feet are more common in children and adolescents because their ligaments tend to be looser. In most cases, this problem resolves itself spontaneously with age. (5)
In children and adolescents with overpressure, the chances of having flat feet are usually higher. One of the many reasons it is of great importance is to control the body mass index at this age.
Treatments for flat feet
Treatments for flat feet are described below:
- Orthopedic insoles
Studies claim that insoles and splints are not the best treatments for flat feet. (5.6)
Its long-term effects on shaping the arch of the foot are low. They are uncomfortable, expensive accessories and should be used on the types with pain.
If you must use orthopedic insoles, be sure to accompany them with suitable footwear. Insoles can reduce the size of the shoes and cause sensations or pain in other parts of the foot.
- Physical exercises
Some types of particular exercises can reduce pain and improve resistance and flexibility of the sole. It is one of the treatments with the best results in children and adolescents.
The most common exercises are running barefoot on the sand and walking on the balls of the foot, the outside and inside of the foot. As well as stimulating the movement of the fingers. (3)
One of the best exercises for flat feet is to perform heel raises (or standing on your toes). This exercise achieved the contraction of most of the muscles that generate the plantar arch.
Traditional surgeries to correct flatfoot syndrome are complex and are only recommended in rare cases. However, other types of so-called third-generation surgeries show promise as a treatment.
A person with flat feet recovers in a few weeks with this treatment. They leave the patient fully recovered in a few weeks.
The technology called HyProCure consists of introducing a titanium cylinder the size of a screw into the sinus tarsus, which is the tunnel located at the junction of the talus and calcaneus; deviated bones in this disease. (4)
This is an effective but expensive treatment and should be reserved for flatfoot types that cause pain.
The best shoes for flat feet
People with flat feet should not wear flat-soled shoes, particularly beach sandals. You must also make sure that you have the boots well fastened; this is because it prevents the feet from wobbling from left to right, providing additional instability.
You do not have to wear shoes of larger or smaller sizes. At most, they should exceed 1 cm from where the foot ends. Extensive footwear can aggravate the consequences of this disease.
The New Balance 860v4, Asics GEL-Kayano, Nike LunarGlide 6, and Saucony Omni 13 shoes are unique models for people suffering from flat foot syndrome (2). Ideally, it would help try the different brands to decide which one best suits your feet.
Consequences of flat foot syndrome
One of the most frequent consequences of flatfoot syndrome is the deviation of the spine, which also affects posture. These deviations lead to alterations and deformations in the spine.
With flatfoot syndrome, the axis of the ankles is no longer perpendicular and rotates unnaturally. (1)
The flexible flat foot type does not have serious long-term consequences in children and adolescents. (1) (2) However, the rigid valgus and talus types can mean loss of upper-body mobility.
How to walk flat?
Although it sounds silly, learning the walking technique is essential for people with flat feet.
The ideal is to divide the movement into two moments: lift and support the feet. When lifting the foot, you should start with the heel. At this point, the anterior calf muscles should be involved.
When landing, the heel is the first area to contact the ground. At this time, the back of the calves should be actively engaged.
Any alteration in walking technique is negatively reflected in body posture. The deviation of the torso forward alters the distribution of loads on the feet: one of the leading causes of flatfoot syndrome.
- Flatfoot is a disease related to the curvature of the sole.
- In children and adolescents, this disease is because we link them to being laxer, and it is more frequent; the figure reaches up to 50% in preschool children.
- There are four types of flat feet. Some are painless and do not need complex treatments, while others are genetic and require unique treatments.
- Every kind of flatfoot requires a different treatment. As well as its consequences, the most serious ones can lead to loss of mobility. The milder ones recover over time.
- Modifying your walking technique and doing specific exercises are the best flatfoot treatments for teens.
- Orthotics have not worked well for people with flat feet; their long-term effects are low.