The human foot is an amazing feat of biological engineering built for stiffness, springiness, balance, and load-bearing. It has 19 muscles, 26 bones, 33 joints, and 107 ligaments. And one arch (actually there are 3 arches that form one). But not all of us have beautiful arches. Some of us have flat feet and while not always painful – flat feet can sometimes cause us problems.
We’re going to talk a little about flat feet, what causes them, problems, and most importantly helping you with solutions if you are one asking what to do if your arches are flat?
What Are Flat Feet?
Above we mention the foot and it’s arch being a feat of biological engineering. And it is.
Put aside for the second all the pieces that make up a foot. Over the millennia, as humans came down out of the trees and began walking upright, we needed a platform that was up to the task of not only bearing our weight but being able to efficiently move us around. Before, when we were in the trees, our feet were more like hands – good for grasping trunks and branches. When we came down to the ground, we needed our feet to be more like – well feet rather than hands. So our feet became feet.
They needed to be more rigid and able to spring as we stepped to help support our weight and propel us forward. What was the solution? The foot arch. Your foot’s arch not only makes it stronger but able to return energy as you walk. Perfect for bipedal apes.
But, not all of us get fabulous arches. If the arches on the insides of your feet touch the ground when you stand or walk – you have flat feet. It’s a daily common, painless condition of the foot. However, it can cause some problems over time.
People with flat feet tend to overpronate – that is where the foot rolls to the inside as a person stand or walks. A common sign of overpronation is the inside of your shoes wearing out faster than the outside.
What Are The Dangers Of Flat Feet?
For most people, having flat feet won’t cause any problems. For some, however, over time they may develop foot, ankle, knee, or lower back pain. This is caused by the inward rolling of the flat foot as it walks, called overpronation.
The pain can be so severe that some may seek flatfoot reconstructive surgery to rebuild their arches.
What Causes Flat Feet?
There are three typical causes of flat feet. One is genetic and the other two are caused by the daily beating each foot takes.
The two types of flat feet:
1. Born with them
Everyone is born with flat feet, but over time most feet will from arches – some don’t
2. Develop them over time
Regular wear and tear over the years or a foot injury can cause your arches to fall
How Common Are Flat Feet?
You may be surprised to find out that as many as 20 – 30% of people have flat feet or low arches. That’s about 1 in 5 people. So it’s fairly common.
Being obese, hypertension, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis all increase one’s chances of developing flat feet, since the arches of your feet bear the force of your bodyweight.
Is Flat Feet Permanent?
For most adults with flat feet, the condition is permanent. Most doctors will focus more on managing any pain or problems.
Are There Treatments For Flat Feet?
While there are surgeries like flatfoot reconstruction surgery (mentioned above) which corrects the ligaments and tendons, most podiatrists will recommend:
- Orthotic inserts
- Physical therapy
- Cortizone injections
These treatments help to provide the feet with support, strengthen the foot muscles, tendons and ligaments and alleviate any swelling.
There are also a number of foot exercises you can do that will help strengthen your feet if your arches are weak. These include:
- Sit in a chair with your feet flat, toes pointed forward
- Keeping your foot flat, flex your foot bringing the front of your foot toward your heel
- Hold for 10 – 15 seconds
- Repeat 5 times
- Place both hands on a wall
- Keep one knee slightly bent while straightening the other leg
- Keeping the feet pointed forward, stretch deep into your calf and Achilles tendon
- Hold for one minute
- Repeat 5 times
- Either standing or holding onto a chair or table for support, go up onto your tiptoes
- Hold for 5 seconds
- Repeat 10 times
- Do it with and without a hold
- Lift the big toe up while pressing the other toes down
- Hold for 10 seconds
- Revers: press your big toe down and flex the other toes up
- Hold for 10 seconds
- Repeat 5 times
If you’re feet are hurting, you can:
- Take OTC pain relievers
- Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation
- Soak your feet in hot and cold baths
- Massage your feet
- Wear compression socks
If the pain and swelling is severe, a doctor will often prescribe cortisone shots.
Besides orthotic inserts, one of your best defenses against foot pain is wearing a good pair of shoes with arch support and cushioning. You may want to check out our blog that curated the best tennis shoes for male nurses after all the sports are highly reliant on the feet and definitely takes into account comfort and support.
What Orthopedic Inserts Are Best For Flat Feet?
The most common treatment for flat feet is a set of good orthotic inserts. They provide the arch support and cushioning flat feet need to help prevent foot pain and overpronation when walking.
Here’s a couple of brands of orthopedic inserts great for flat feet:
Physix Gear Sport Full Length Orthotic Inserts with Arch Support
- Arch support and balance
- Non-slip design
Walk Hero Orthotic Inserts
- Arch support
- Promotes foot alignment
- Eases and helps prevent foot pain
Is Going Barefoot Good For Flat Feet?
There is research showing that going barefoot is actually good for flat feet.
Studies have been done, on runners in particular, that run barefoot or with minimalist shoes. Wearing little to no shoes allows your foot to work the way it evolved to work, rather than the unnatural way our feet move in shoes.
It makes you use a more natural gait, rather than stepping forward hard on your heel. This causes your foot to use more muscles as you walk, strengthening muscle, tendons, and ligaments. Going barefoot or wearing minimalist shoes can also help to prevent overpronation, which is what people with flat feet tend to do.
If you have flat feet – you’re not alone. You may never have a problem with your feet, regardless of how much time you spend on them. But if you do, try these tips and take care of your beautiful, flat feet. If you need more tips on taking care of your feet you may find our man’s guide to foot care your best buddy.
Fun Fact: Have you seen or have known a male nurse with beards? If not, are you curious to find out if male nurses can have beards?