Flat feet is a common biomechanical problem that occurs when a person's arch collapse too far upon weight bearing, and is said to "over-pronated". Pronation is the natural motion of the foot as it roles inward and flattens out when the foot makes contact with the ground. Pronation is part of the body's natural complex shock absorption and allows the foot to adapt to the contour of the ground. Too much pronation will cause the arch of the foot to flatten excessively placing stress and pressure on tissues and ligaments of the foot. This motion can cause extreme stress or inflammation on the plantar fascia, potentially causing severe discomfort and leading to other foot problems including plantar fasciitis, ankle pain, shin pain, knee pain, bunions, mortons neuroma, and lower back pain.
There are many causes of flat feet. Obesity, pregnancy, genetic predisposition or repetitive pounding on a hard surface can weaken the arch leading to over-pronation. Often people with flat feet do not experience discomfort immediately, and some never suffer from any discomfort at all. However, when symptoms develop and become painful, walking becomes awkward and causes increased strain on the feet and calves.
Over Pronation can be treated conservatively (non-surgical treatments) with orthotics. Orthotics provides the required arch support to effectively reduce excessive pronation and restore the foot and its posture to the right biomechanical position. Orthotics should be designed with appropriate arch support and medial rear foot posting to prevent the over-pronation.
Footwear should also be examined to ensure there is a proper fit. Footwear with a firm heel counter is often recommended for extra adequate control, support and stability. Improperly fitting footwear can lead to additional foot problems.
High arched foot is the opposite of a ‘flat foot’, where the foot does not roll in very much at all. A distinct highly curved arch is apparent along the inside of the foot. Often the toes are also in a clawed position.
A high arched foot tends to be very rigid in nature and lacks shock absorbing properties. This is due to the foot failing to roll in adequately just after the heel strikes the ground while walking.
When the foot does not absorb shock effectively symptoms such as shin, knee, heel and spinal pain are commonly seen as these structures are forced to take more force than they are normally supposed to.
The structural alignment of the bones within the foot is hereditary. Therefore high arched feet are generally inherited from parents or grandparents. However, some neuromuscular diseases such as Charcot Marie Tooth Syndrome can also cause high arched feet.
Bunion (Hallux Valgus) is a deformity of the great toe joint. They are usually a result of three causes: problems of foot type (usually inherited), flawed foot mechanics that affect walking patterns, and shoes that are too tight.
This bump represents an actual deviation of the 1st metatarsal and often an overgrowth of bone on the metatarsal head. In addition, there is also deviation of the great toe toward the second toe. In severe cases, the great toe can either lie above or below the second toe. Shoes are often blamed for creating these problems. This, however, is inaccurate. It has been noted that primitive tribes where going barefoot is the norm will also develop bunions. Bunions develop from abnormal foot structure and mechanics (e.g. excessive pronation), which place an undue load on the 1st metatarsal. This leads to stretching of supporting soft tissue structures such as joint capsules and ligaments with the end result being gradual deviation of the 1st metatarsal. As the deformity increases, there is an abnormal pull of certain tendons, which leads to the drifting of the great toe toward the 2nd toe. At this stage, there is also adaptation of the joint itself that occurs. The most common symptoms associated with this condition are pain on the side of the foot. Shoes will typically aggravate bunions. Stiff leather shoes or shoes with a tapered toe box are the prime offenders. This is why bunion pain is most common in women whose shoes have a pointed toe box.
The bunion site will often be slightly swollen and red from the constant rubbing and irritation of a shoe. Occasionally, corns can develop between the 1st and 2nd toe from the pressure the toes rubbing against each other.