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How to take care of your flat feet

Flat feet are described as the phenomena when the inner curve between the toe and the heel of the foot is absent. It is one of the commonest and most neglected problems, say experts.

health and fitness Updated: Apr 17, 2010 17:16 IST
Tavishi Paitandy Rastogi
Tavishi Paitandy Rastogi
Hindustan Times

Foot spaLecturer Sujata Mehra would take her constant foot aches for granted, until she woke up to acute pain in her feet and could only hobble around in great discomfort. "I went to a doctor, and was surprised when my doctor attributed my problems to flat feet." Like Mehra, many people who have flat feet generally ignore their situation. But flat feet is one of the commonest and most neglected problems, say experts.

Foot loose
Flat feet are described as the phenomena when the inner curve between the toe and the heel of the foot is absent. “It’s a common occurrence,” says podiatrist Dr Govind S Bisht, consultant specialist at Max Health Care, Delhi. “It is a condition which most people do not see as a clinical complexity and neglect it. It can occur in one or both feet.”

Experts define flat feet in two ways:
Mobile Arch
– “This is a more common condition,” explains Dr Vivek Shetty, consultant orthopedic surgeon at Hinduja Hospital in Mumbai, adding, “This is just a problem of the foot muscles being or becoming lax. Very often, this condition can also be painless and may not require any treatment.”
Rigid Arch – This, according to experts, is more serious and rare. “Rigid arch is a congenital or birth defect that occurs between the ankle joint and the sub tailor bone. It can be corrected through surgery,” explains Shetty.

Pressure zone
So why are flat feet a problem? “This is because flat feet leads to a disturbance in the distribution of body balance,” says Dr Bisht. “Our feet are designed to bear our weight. A flat foot can lead to uneven distribution of pressure on muscles and joints, leading to discomfort and other issues which can lead to degenerative conditions like osteoarthiritis.” From pain in the inner ankles, knees, calves, hips and back to stiffness in the legs and bad posture, flat feet can be a cause of various conditions. “Uneven pressure distribution leads to more than normal wear and tear of feet muscles. This leads to corns and calcites,” says Dr Shetty.

Cause and affect
But how does one get flat feet? There are various reasons, say experts. “It could be hereditary or familial in nature. Other causes involve weak muscles of the foot due to trauma or injury, a nerve disorder or weakness caused by trauma or infection, diabetes, and the normal ageing process,” explains Dr Bisht.

Though not life-threatening, experts believe that ignoring one’s flat feet may lead to various complications. In certain cases, surgical intervention also becomes important. While sufferers can take medication, experts feel that only regular exercises, wearing customised insoles and immediate attention to corns can bring relief.

Take the test

Do you have flat feet?
According to experts, the ‘Wet Test’ is the easiest way to diagnose a flat foot. To do this, take an impression of your wet feet on the floor. If the impression is of a complete blob of foot unlike a normal impression of toes, one side and the heel, then you have flat feet.You may also have flat feet if your feet hurt constantly or if the inner sides of your shoes deteriorate to a distorted shape.

Feet first
* If you have flat feet, take care of your weight.
* Always wear custom-made insoles. You can get this done at shoe stores.
* Do regular muscle strengthening exercises
* Avoid high heels.

First Published: Apr 16, 2010 18:41 IST