Everyone’s feet are shaped a bit differently. You can have a small foot with a high arch or a wide, flat foot or any other combination of a number of other factors that shape the foot.You might not realize, though, that the shape of the foot is important for your health. You may have heard the term “fallen arches” before but not quite known what that means. The arch is on the side of your foot that faces inward and, in most healthy people, the underside of the arch does not touch the ground. You can bend over and stick your fingertips under the arch of your foot. However, in people with fallen arches, this part of the foot may touch the ground. There is little to no gap between the ground and the bottom of the arch. The arch is formed by the tension in tendons in the foot holding the structure of the foot in a certain position. If there is damage to these tendons such as stretching and tearing or damage to the bones in the foot, the arch might not maintain its proper shape. Sometimes this condition is present at birth but it can also be caused by trauma to the foot, obesity, pregnancy, diabetes, and just aging.
If you think you have fallen arches, it is important that you visit your doctor to get a proper diagnosis. The foot has a complex make-up and there are other conditions such as plantar fasciitis that could be causing foot pain or discomfort. Once you have confirmed that you have fallen arches, the treatment you are given will depend on the cause of your condition.
Treatment for Fallen Arches
If your fallen arches pain is caused by an injury it is likely you’ll be asked to adapt the R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression, elevation) treatment during the acute period. Depending on the injury you may have to wear a cast or a cushioned boot to help the bones heal properly and reduce the amount of swelling you experience. Sometimes physical therapy is also prescribed, depending on the nature of your injury. Once the injury is fully healed, it is possible that you will no longer experience the symptoms of fallen arches since your foot will once again be able to provide the tension needed to create a healthy arch.
However, if your fallen arches symptoms are present without an injury, there may be other medical conditions that are contributing to them. Sometimes during pregnancy, the tendons in the body become more relaxed because of hormonal changes. That, coupled with the additional weight of the growing baby, can sometimes lead to fallen arches. Once the baby is born, it is likely that these contributing factors will reverse themselves and so will the symptoms of fallen arches. If the pain is too much to stand in the interim, physical therapy can sometimes be helpful in this situation. Using inserts in your shoes to add arch support can also alleviate some pain and discomfort. The support of the insole will mimic the natural support you should have in your foot and can make walking and participating in activities easier.
Similarly, if the biggest contributing factor to your fallen arches is obesity, removing that factor by losing weight will be the most direct way to get lasting relief. A 2018 study showed that BMI is highly correlated with the height of the foot arch. Again, weight loss may be combined with physical therapy and the addition of insoles to your footwear as you progress in your weight loss journey. Many shoes and work boots are not designed with adequate arch support. If you are carrying extra weight and especially if you are on your feet all day, getting some inserts to support your foot is one way to combat the problem.
In more extreme cases, when the structures in the foot are severely damaged or if the pain is not getting better when using other treatments, surgery may be used to correct fallen arches. The type of surgery and the recovery period are very dependent on your personal situation. Sometimes a surgeon will go in and remove bony growths, or add additional tendons where they are needed, or even graft more bone to your foot. As you can imagine, it is best to avoid this type of treatment when possible so preventative steps such as maintaining a healthy weight, making sure your shoes or insoles provide proper arch support, and paying attention to early signs of pain and discomfort go a long way.