Adult-Acquired Flat Feet: How Fallen Arches Can Affect Your Gait

Dec 12, 2023
Adult-Acquired Flat Feet: How Fallen Arches Can Affect Your Gait
Many people have flat feet from birth. But you can also develop the condition in adulthood. When this occurs, it can interfere with support and stability in your feet — but the issues don’t stop there. Read on to learn more.

Did you know that everyone has flat feet at birth? That’s because the arch of the foot develops during childhood, making flat feet a condition that a person typically outgrows. But, in some cases, that doesn’t occur, leaving them with flat feet for the rest of their life — meaning the entire sole comes in contact with the ground when they stand.

However, there are other causes of flat feet. In fact, an arch can collapse if injured, from wear-and-tear, or because of medical conditions like obesity, hypertension, and diabetes. These cases often affect adults, leading to the term “adult-acquired flat feet.” 

Flat feet may not seem like cause for concern, but they can be quite painful and even debilitating. Plus, your feet provide stability and support for your entire musculoskeletal system. Fallen arches disrupt this complex structure, causing a ripple effect that can impact your whole body.

Hai-En Peng, DPM, FACFAS, at Align Foot & Ankle Center can correct flat feet in adults, whether you’ve had the problem from birth or recently noticed an issue. 

Have your arches fallen? Here’s why you should schedule a visit in Camarillo or Santa Barbara, California, for treatment.

Signs of adult-acquired flat feet

Any adult can develop flat feet, but they’re most common in people over 40 and women (or those assigned female at birth). 

The most obvious sign of flat feet involves the changes in the foot shape. Mainly, the entire sole comes in contact with the floor. Additional symptoms of adult-acquired flat feet include:

  • An ankle that turns inward
  • Unable to stand on tiptoe
  • A bony bump inside or on top of the foot
  • Swelling along the tendon inside the ankle
  • Pain along the inside of the foot, ankle, or arch
  • Pain on the outside of the ankle

It’s also common for these symptoms to worsen during or after activity.

How flat feet impact your gait

Flat feet can progress without treatment, causing abnormalities in the foot to worsen. For instance, the heel lies straight below the calf in a foot with a healthy arch. If looking at this foot from behind, you would only see the fourth and fifth toes on the foot. 

When you have flat feet, the heel slides from underneath the ankle. In response, your toes point out, leaving more toes visible when you look at the foot from behind. In some cases, you can see all of them, including the big toe.

In addition to uncomfortable symptoms and structural abnormalities, fallen arches limit flexibility and range of motion in the feet and ankles. As you might suspect, these issues significantly impact your gait, which can increase your risks of other problems, such as:

  • Arthritis
  • Bone spurs
  • Corns, calluses, and bunions
  • Shin splints
  • Knee, hip, and lower back pain

Fortunately, Dr. Peng offers numerous treatments to address flat feet.

Treating flat feet

If you have adult-acquired flat feet, there’s good news — conservative treatments often provide the best solutions.

Common methods for treating flat feet include the following:

For severe symptoms that don’t respond to conservative treatments, Dr. Peng could recommend surgery to repair tissue and/or bone damage.

Dr. Peng can’t cure adult-acquired flat feet, but he can ease your symptoms and get you moving comfortably again. But it all starts with a thorough examination to assess your condition.

Have your arches fallen? Contact Align Foot & Ankle Center to schedule an appointment in Camarillo or Santa Barbara, California, by calling 805-360-4511 today.