Unlike ducks and penguins, we humans are supposed to have arches in our feet – flat feet are, however, very common and most people even think that they are normal and may avoid treatment. You might be shocked to learn that a flat foot is actually a displaced, sometimes dislocated joint – and dislocated joints are never normal.
Clinical research further verifies flat feet as an abnormality, as it is linked to foot pain, knee pain, lower back pain, muscle fatigue and poor sports performance. The good news is, if the joints of a flat foot are still flexible then it can be corrected.
There is a very important bone in the foot known as the talus. This bone sits at the top of the medial longitudinal arch. Contrary to popular belief, this arch does not resemble a man-made arch as seen in buildings or bridges. Its highest point is not situated in the middle of your foot but is instead located under the ankle where the talus sits. The talus, therefore, dictates the shape of the foot. A dislocated talus can lead to either flat feet or a high arch, both of which can cause further problems if not corrected.
A normal talus (top) and a dislocated talus (bottom)
When aligned correctly, the bones and joints of your foot create the medial (inner) longitudinal arch, the lateral (outer) longitudinal arch and the transverse (across the front) arch. Inherited or developed flat feet occurs when this medial longitudinal arch is lowered sometimes to the point of touching the floor.
The normal position of the talus is almost horizontal, at around 18 to 25 degrees. When it is positioned more vertically at a 30 to 90-degree angle, the arch of your foot lowers and creates flat feet. Like high arches, this has a detrimental effect on the entire body, not just on your foot, because the talus bone is meant to take all your body weight and distribute this pressure across your foot – enabling you to walk, run and jump effectively.
The severity of the condition (the angle of the talus) helps us decide on the most appropriate treatment for our flat-footed patients. Treatment involves pushing your talus into its correct position by using custom-made foot orthotics specifically prescribed according to the talus angle for a certain amount of time. Treatment is painless and can be done at any age. However, seeking professional treatment early is always the best way to go, as it will only become more difficult to correct the talus angle as the patient grows older.