Overview There's an easy way to tell if you have flat feet. Simply wet your feet, then stand on a flat, dry surface that will leave an imprint of your foot. A normal footprint has a wide band connecting the ball of the foot to the heel, with an indentation on the inner side of the foot. A foot with a high arch has a large indentation and a very narrow connecting band. Flat feet leave a nearly complete imprint, with almost no inward curve where the arch should be. Most people have "flexible flatfoot" as children; an arch is visible when the child rises up on the toes, but not when the child is standing. As you age, the tendons that attach to the bones of the foot grow stronger and tighten, forming the arch. But if injury or illness damages the tendons, the arch can "fall," creating a flatfoot. In many adults, a low arch or a flatfoot is painless and causes no problems. However, a painful flatfoot can be a sign of a congenital abnormality or an injury to the muscles and tendons of the foot. Flat feet can even contribute to low back pain. Causes Rheumatoid arthritis This type of arthritis attacks the cartilage in the foot, leading to pain and flat feet. It is caused by auto-immune disease, where the body?s immune system attacks its own tissues. Diabetes. Having diabetes can cause nerve damage and affect the feeling in your feet and cause arch collapse. Bones can also fracture but some patients may not feel any pain due to the nerve damage. Obesity and/or hypertension (high blood pressure) This increases your risk of tendon damage and resulting flat foot. Symptoms Initially, flatfoot deformity may not present with any symptoms. However, overtime as the tendon continues to function in an abnormal position, people with fallen arches will begin to have throbbing or sharp pain along the inside of the arch. Once the tendon and soft tissue around it elongates, there is no strengthening exercises or mechanism to shorten the tendon back to a normal position. Flatfoot can also occur in one or both feet. If the arch starts to slowly collapse in one foot and not the other, posterior tibial dysfunction (PTTD) is the most likely cause. People with flatfoot may only have pain with certain activities such as running or exercise in the early phase of PTTD. Pain may start from the arch and continue towards the inside part of the foot and ankle where the tendon courses from the leg. Redness, swelling and increased warmth may also occur. Later signs of PTTD include pain on the outside of the foot from the arch collapsing and impinging other joints. Arthritic symptoms such as painful, swollen joints in the foot and ankle may occur later as well due to the increased stress on the joints from working in an abnormal position for a long period of time. Diagnosis 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 Nonoperative therapy for adult-acquired flatfoot is a reasonable treatment option that is likely to be beneficial for most patients. In this article, we describe the results of a retrospective cohort study that focused on nonoperative measures, including bracing, physical therapy, and anti-inflammatory medications, used to treat adult-acquired flatfoot in 64 consecutive patients. The results revealed the incidence of successful nonsurgical treatment to be 87.5% (56 of 64 patients), over the 27-month observation period. Overall, 78.12% of the patients with adult-acquired flatfoot were obese (body mass index [BMI] = 30), and 62.5% of the patients who failed nonsurgical therapy were obese; however, logistic regression failed to show that BMI was statistically significantly associated with the outcome of treatment. The use of any form of bracing was statistically significantly associated with successful nonsurgical treatment (fully adjusted OR = 19.8621, 95% CI 1.8774 to 210.134), whereas the presence of a split-tear of the tibialis posterior on magnetic resonance image scans was statistically significantly associated with failed nonsurgical treatment (fully adjusted OR = 0.016, 95% CI 0.0011 to 0.2347). The results of this investigation indicate that a systematic nonsurgical treatment approach to the treatment of the adult-acquired flatfoot deformity can be successful in most cases. Surgical Treatment If conservative treatments don?t work, your doctor may recommend surgery. Several procedures can be used to treat posterior tibial tendon dysfunction; often more than one procedure is performed at the same time. Your doctor will recommend a specific course of treatment based on your individual case. Surgical options include. Tenosynovectomy. In this procedure, the surgeon will clean away (debride) and remove (excise) any inflamed tissue surrounding the tendon. Osteotomy. This procedure changes the alignment of the heel bone (calcaneus). The surgeon may sometimes have to remove a portion of the bone. Tendon transfer: This procedure uses some fibers from another tendon (the flexor digitorum longus, which helps bend the toes) to repair the damaged posterior tibial tendon. Lateral column lengthening, In this procedure, the surgeon places a small wedge-shaped piece of bone into the outside of the calcaneus. This helps realign the bones and recreates the arch. Arthrodesis. This procedure welds (fuses) one or more bones together, eliminating movement in the joint. This stabilizes the hindfoot and prevents the condition from progressing further.