Health Risks of Flat Feet and How You Can Prevent It
The sole of a normal foot has an arch. This arch makes your footprint appear curved like the image below.
However, not all people have normal foot. In fact, studies show that 20-30% of the general population suffer from flat feet.
Having flat feet means your foot does not have an arch at all or is lower that it should be, with the entire sole coming into almost complete contact with the ground.
What's the Problem if I Have Flat Feet?
Most flat feet are asymptomatic and do not cause immediate pain. However, recent studies show that having flat feet may lead to serious problems if left untreated like dislocated bones or broken bones that can protrude through the skin. If these things occur, surgery will be your only viable option.
Have you ever looked at the soles of your feet? I mean really looked at it? Usually, we only see our feet through its side without realizing that there are many forms of foot arches.
Ask your friends if they have flat feet. Most likely, they will answer "no". But if you carefully examine them standing or even just by looking at them, you will notice that many of them have flat feet. With our observation, about 30% of them have flat feet.
A medical study shows that a painless flat foot does not hinder your ability to walk and run for long duration. Then, why do we say that having flat feet is a health risk?
Flat Feet Can Develop Later in Life
We asked 20 people to undergo foot examination in the morning and another examination in the evening. Half of them were tasked to work in standing position while the other half in sitting position for the whole day. Then, we discovered that some people's feet became 20% bigger in the evening. This is caused by blood and fluid being pulled down to the feet by gravity and because of prolonged standing.
Workers who spend a large percentage of their time on their feet, standing and/or walking, such as salespeople, supermarket workers, health care workers, industrial workers, and mail carriers, are at risk of developing flat feet.
Weakened muscles in the foot due to aging or injury can also contribute to flat foot.
How Prolonged Standing or Walking Affect the Feet
The foot has dozens of muscles, bones, and connective tissues. When these are heavily stressed, they become swollen and bone structures may change because of weight and gravity, which can eventually lead to flat foot.
The bones that form arches on the foot are very important supporters. Actually, they serve as shock absorbers during walking, standing, jumping, or running. Having flat foot means the arches are lost, and you will be vulnerable to injury as the shock-absorbing arches disappear.
Detecting Early Signs of Flat Feet
It is quite difficult to detect the onset of falling arches even through X-ray. The affected feet may for some time go unsuspected.
However, the most usual symptoms that may occur are chronic pain, discomfort, or fatigue, in foot, lower leg, and ankle. If you believe you have these symptoms, we recommend that you consult your doctor at the earliest opportunity.
Can Flat Feet be treated?
Treatment will depend on the cause of flat foot. Common treatments include orthoses (ankle braces, or shoe inserts for arch support) and surgery to reshape the feet. Anti-inflammatory and pain medications are also used.
How Can I Prevent Flat Feet
- Reduce your time spent on standing or walking. If your job or work requires being on feet a lot, try to alternate standing or walking with sitting.
- Avoid high-heeled footwear. Women wearing high heels are at risk of developing flat feet. This is because high heels do not support the feet properly and can weaken the tendons leading to fallen arch.
- Perform foot exercises. A simple exercise like doing Rock Paper Scissors motion with your feet will help greatly.
This exercise will also help prevent other various feet problems and will help improve balance in older people, thus preventing falls in the elderly.
Interesting Feet Facts and Trivia
- An average person walks approximately 185,000 kilometers (115,000 miles) in a lifetime, which is equivalent to walking around the earth for more than four times!
- Our feet endure a cumulative force of several hundred tons during a normal day.
- Our body has 206 separate bones. Twenty-six of them are located in each foot. That means 25% of our body's bones are located in the feet.