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Your Feet: Gateways to Your Knees, Hips and Back

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

Question: Telma, I am starting to get the idea that I should come and see you if I have flat feet and let you examine my feet. I have enjoyed three articles on flat feet. How do you mean that flat feet can cause a problem in my knees, my hips and my back? I do not quite understand that.

Put down the newspaper and stand UP. Take your left foot, roll the arch in and keep it rolled. Now walk. Right away you’ll feel a pull in your leg, either in your knee, hips or in your back. This is an example of how a flat foot affects your walk, and how your walk will, in turn, affect other areas of your body. A person with flat feet is actually walking on his/her arches. Multiply this little demonstration by the number of steps a person will take in life, and the picture for complications from flat feet becomes very clear.

Everybody rolls in on their arches when they walk, but it’s only for an instant and only to transmit the weight from our heels to our toes for the push-off. Walking normally, the heel will strike and then we roll through the mid-foot, it flattens for an instant, but then we push off again we should be pushing off with the toes.

But a flat foot will cause the walker to push off the flattened arch. A strain on the knee results because the motion pulls on the knee. If left uncorrected, the muscles running from the knee to the hip are affected. Now hip pain will surface. If left uncorrected the pain will spread to the back and the body will try to compensate. Depending on the “solution” the body tries, neck pain and headaches could be just around the corner. Another possibility is that a flat foot will predispose the sufferer the heel and foot problem and we talked about that in the last article.

Through writing about this condition, I hope I have made my readers more aware of the dangers of leaving it untreated. We learned that children can be helped and the good news is that physio will also help adults.

Where the foot is flattened because the person is actually walking on their inside arch, but the arch remains in good condition, orthotics are critical and support that arch and stop it from flattening any further.  I do, however, suggest physiotherapy as a treatment before jumping into orthotics.

Why? Orthotics will not correct the muscular imbalance that has caused the flat foot. The physiotherapist will examine the foot, your knees and your back and will emphasize muscles that help to stabilize or correct the flatness of the foot. The most important sets of muscles are the pelvic, hip, back, and abdominal muscles. By training those muscles to be a little stronger, we can help support the hips, the back, the knees and, ultimately the flat foot. The numbers are promising: in 80% of cases treatment will correct the problem.