Fallen foot arches lead to the supporting structures of your feet and lower legs coming under too much strain. When your arches collapse and the entire sole of your foot is flat you may change the way you walk to compensate for the shift in your balance and posture, but this can cause pain and damage the tendons and muscles in your feet. Here's what you need to know about fallen arches:
Your foot arches can fall as a result of an injury to the muscles or tendons in your feet. Any injury that can cause muscle weakness or put a strain on your tendons such as Achilles tendinopathy can cause the supporting structure of your foot to collapse. Chronic inflammatory conditions that can cause joint erosion such as rheumatoid arthritis can also lead to fallen arches, particularly if the inflammation is not well-controlled over a long period of time. Additionally, pregnant women are susceptible to developing fallen arches as relaxin, a hormone released during pregnancy, causes the ligaments in your body to loosen and soften in preparation for labour. When the ligaments in your feet loosen, your feet don't have sufficient support to carry the weight of your growing bump.
The main symptoms of fallen arches are:
- Foot pain
- Swollen feet
- Pain in your lower legs, particularly after walking or standing for even short periods
- Skin irritation from wearing your shoes, which can occur because fallen arches cause your feet to spread out and your shoes may not fit as well as they once did
A podiatrist can diagnose fallen arches by examining your feet and observing you walk. They will then formulate a treatment plan, which can include the following:
- Rest - In order for the muscles, tendons and ligaments in your feet to recover from the additional strain they've been under, you must rest your feet regularly. Sitting with your feet up several times a day will encourage the swelling to come down and improve the circulation in your feet, and good blood flow is required for tissue repair.
- Medication - Painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs may be suggested as a short-term treatment to reduce discomfort. You should always get the go-ahead from your general practitioner before taking any over-the-counter drugs.
- Orthotics - Your podiatrist can measure you for custom-made orthotic insoles, which can lift your arches and provide extra support by altering the way your weight is distributed across your feet. The insoles can be inserted into most shoes and the podiatrist will follow-up with you to ensure they are working as they should.
- Onward Referral - If you have a medical condition that may have caused or contributed to your arches collapsing, your podiatrist will refer you to your specialist for review. For example, if you have rheumatoid arthritis, your rheumatologist may want to review the effectiveness of your current medication.
If you're experiencing foot pain or have noticed a change to the shape of your feet, schedule an appointment with your podiatrist for a thorough foot exam.