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Adults with Flat Feet: It Gets Complicated

Telma Grant, P.T. Private & OHIP physiotherapy and Chiropractic. If you're in pain, call us. We can help.

Question: Telma, why do I need to see a physiotherapist if I have flat feet?


Let’s recap what, exactly, the term “flat feet” means. In medical terms, we call it pes planus, or a foot that rolls in. If you look at a person from the back, you see that they are taking more weight on an inner arch and, as a consequence, the foot flattens you have observed an instance of flat foot. Initially this may not sound like a condition of grave concern but when on considers that a flat foot will affect how a person walks in combination with how much time us grown ups actually spend on our feet, a flat foot has very important implications. It will affect how we walk and, ultimately, problems may develop elsewhere in our bodies.

The observer can see the flattening but a more detailed understanding of each flat-footed person’s condition is possible with a computerizes gait analysis. The client will walk through this examination; the weight of a person is taken in different measures by their feet as he/she walks. Walking may seem like a simple activity, but there are three distinct parts to the action. First the heel strikes the ground, then we roll through the middle part of the foot and then we push off with the first and second toes. This is the normal step of a normal-footed person. When a person has a flat foot walking is very different.

Specifically, two things will happen:

They take too much weight through the heel on the side of the foot that is flat. You will hear, what is referred to as “elephant foot”: as it slams, slams. The heel hits the floor much harder that in should. I’ve actually seen this as it happens in the gait scan: a red area will show under the heel. With time this will put strain on the spring ligament under the foot – – the plantar fasci – – and the sufferer could develop plantar fascitis, or heel spur syndrome.

The heel does not strike very well, and the walker will roll into the inner arch and then push off. This is also very clear on the gait scan. With this particular patient, the complications move further up the body., The foot is not taking the impact of the ground well, creating the potential for knee, hip, and even back problems.

Adults tend to take their feet for granted and, on the surface, having a flat foot doesn’t sound like such a big deal. But left untreated it can lead to something as “small” as heel spur syndrome, as nagging knee problem or persistent back pain that actually limits your activity level. The best solution is to see your physiotherapist for an examination. If you have a question for Telma please contact us.