Flatfoot is often a complex disorder with diverse symptoms and varying degrees of deformity and disability. All types of flatfoot have in common partial or total collapse of the arch of the foot.
Health problems such as rheumatoid arthritis or diabetes sometimes increase the risk of developing flatfoot. In addition, adults who are overweight frequently have flatfoot.
Most types of flatfoot include the following characteristics:
- Toe drift,” where the toes and front part of the foot point outward.
- The heel tilts toward the outside and the ankle appears to turn in.
- A short Achilles tendon, which causes the heel to lift off the ground earlier when walking and may act as a deforming force.
- Bunions and hammertoes may occur in some people with flatfeet.
Treatment of flat feet may also be needed if there is associated foot or lower leg pain, or if the condition affects the knees or the back. Treatment may include using arch supports, orthotics, foot gymnastics or other exercises as recommended by a podiatrist or other physician. Surgery can provide lasting relief, and even create an arch where none existed before, but should be considered a last resort.
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