What do pregnant women, athletes and people with obesity have in common? All are at risk for developing painful foot conditions related to flat feet. Flat feet, also known as over-pronation, is a common biomechanical foot problem that occurs when the arch of the foot collapses upon weight bearing. Weight gain or the constant pounding of active sports can cause flat feet. The collapse of the arch during walking or running can lead to severe discomfort and development of other foot problems.
Suzanne Belyea, medical director of Foot.com, the “Foot Health Network”, a website providing comprehensive information on foot health and care, explains: “Flat feet can lead to plantar fasciitis, a common condition that can be very painful. The plantar fascia is a band of fibrous tissue that runs along the bottom surface of the foot, from the heel bone to the forefoot. As the feet flatten out, this tissue stretches and often becomes inflamed, causing plantar fasciitis”.
People with flat feet often do not experience discomfort immediately, and some never suffer from any discomfort at all. However, when symptoms do develop and become painful, walking becomes awkward and causes increased strain on the feet and calves. One sure sign of plantar fasciitis is a painful first step in the morning as the plantar fascia stretches after being constricted in a rested position all night.
According to Dr. Belyea, flat feet can also cause heel spurs, metatarsalgia, post-tib tendonitis and bunions. “Heel spurs can occur when the plantar fascia is pulled away from the heel bone, leaving space for calcium deposits to build up. These deposits can become unbelievably painful”.
Happily, flat feet can be successfully treated with simple over-the-counter orthotics that support the foot's arch and prevent the plantar fascia from being stretched. People with flat feet should also examine their daily and athletic footwear to ensure a proper fit, strong arch support and a firm heel counter for extra support and stability. Going barefoot can exacerbate flat feet.
Severe inflammation can be treated with the help of night splints. If the problem persists, see your foot doctor.
Run The Planet thanks Foot.com—the “Foot Health Network” dedicated to educating the public about foot health, pain and products—for the permission to reprint the article “Heel spurs: facts and treatment”. Text and illustration copyright © 2001 by Foot.com.