Fallen arches can be caused by age, injury, obesity or normal foot development. They occur when the insteps or arches of the feet collapse and touch the surface of where you stand. Symptoms include pain, lower leg weakness and ankle swelling. Also called flatfoot or pes planus, there are two types of fallen arches: flexible fallen arch is a painless condition which usually doesn't require treatment; painful fallen arch is a condition which has several treatment options.
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See a doctor to diagnose fallen arches, what is causing the problem and how to treat the condition. Your doctor will examine your feet, stance and walk for signs of fallen arches such as the foot turning out at the ankle. X-rays, CAT scans and MRI may be used to diagnose more painful cases of fallen arches.
Use self-care treatment. Your doctor may recommend rest, low-heeled shoes and weight loss because extra weight puts pressure on your feet. You may also need to cut down on or stop activities which cause you pain, and avoid long periods of standing or walking to allow your arches to rest. Any exercises should be non-weight-bearing, such as swimming.
Use medicine. Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter medicine such as ibuprofen for pain and inflammation.
Use orthotics such as shoe inserts, heel wedges or ankle braces. Shoe inserts give biomechanical support to aid foot function and efficiency. Heel wedges and ankle braces can also provide arch support and pain relief. Custom-made orthotics are best. You may need to use a walking cast to alleviate symptoms.
Go to physiotherapy. Fallen arches can be helped by strengthening and lengthening tendons such as your heel cord.
Consider surgery. Your doctor may recommend surgery if your fallen arches are severe. Surgery is used to separate and reset bones in the right position, repair tendons and fuse foot joints into the right position to relieve tendon stress.
Tips and warnings
- Fallen arches can be prevented in some cases. Don't wear shoes which are too small, rigid or don't fit properly. Limit activities or exercises which might injure or put too much stress on your feet. Maintain a healthy weight.
- Pain is usually the only complication associated with fallen arches. Surgery is typically successful, but when it is not, you may have persistent pain, infection and bones which don't heal.
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