Some people have always had flat feet
from a young age. Unfortunately as people reach their fifties they will suddenly
have one foot with a flatter arch than the other foot. This situation is termed adult acquired flatfoot. Adult acquired flatfoot is a painful condition occurring in one foot. The common patient
profile is a female over the age of 50 with pre-existing flatfeet, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and obesity. All of these underlying problems will lead to a weakening of the
support structures of the arch. If you have adult acquired flat foot you will not be able to lift your heel off the ground while standing on one leg. Adult acquired flatfoot may develop due to trauma
or degeneration of major tendons ankle & foot. Weakness or paralysis of leg muscles can also create a flatfoot deformity.
As discussed above, many health conditions can create a painful flatfoot. Damage to the posterior tibial tendon is the most common cause of AAFD. The posterior tibial tendon is one of the most
important tendons of the leg. It starts at a muscle in the calf, travels down the inside of the lower leg and attaches to the bones on the inside of the foot. The main function of this tendon is to
hold up the arch and support your foot when you walk. If the tendon becomes inflamed or torn, the arch will slowly collapse. Women and people over 40 are more likely to develop problems with the
posterior tibial tendon. Other risk factors include obesity, diabetes, and hypertension. Having flat feet since childhood increases the risk of developing a tear in the posterior tibial tendon. In
addition, people who are involved in high impact sports, such as basketball, tennis, or soccer, may have tears of the tendon from repetitive use. Inflammatory arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis,
can cause a painful flatfoot. This type of arthritis attacks not only the cartilage in the joints, but also the ligaments that support the foot. Inflammatory arthritis not only causes pain, but also
causes the foot to change shape and become flat. The arthritis can affect the back of the foot or the middle of foot, both of which can result in a fallen arch.
The symptoms of PTTD may include pain, swelling, a flattening of the arch, and an inward rolling of the ankle. As the condition progresses, the symptoms will change. For example, when PTTD initially
develops, there is pain on the inside of the foot and ankle (along the course of the tendon). In addition, the area may be red, warm, and swollen. Later, as the arch begins to flatten, there may
still be pain on the inside of the foot and ankle. But at this point, the foot and toes begin to turn outward and the ankle rolls inward. As PTTD becomes more advanced, the arch flattens even more
and the pain often shifts to the outside of the foot, below the ankle. The tendon has deteriorated considerably and arthritis often develops in the foot. In more severe cases, arthritis may also
develop in the ankle.
Perform a structural assessment of the foot and ankle. Check the ankle for alignment and position. When it comes to patients with severe PTTD, the deltoid has failed, causing an instability of the
ankle and possible valgus of the ankle. This is a rare and difficult problem to address. However, if one misses it, it can lead to dire consequences and potential surgical failure. Check the heel
alignment and position of the heel both loaded and during varus/valgus stress. Compare range of motion of the heel to the normal contralateral limb. Check alignment of the midtarsal joint for
collapse and lateral deviation. Noting the level of lateral deviation in comparison to the contralateral limb is critical for surgical planning. Check midfoot alignment of the naviculocuneiform
joints and metatarsocuneiform joints both for sag and hypermobility.
Non surgical Treatment
Options range from shoe inserts, orthotics, bracing and physical therapy for elderly and/or inactive patients to reconstructive surgical procedures in those wishing to remain more active. These
treatments restore proper function and alignment of the foot by replacing the damaged muscle tendon unit with an undamaged, available and expendable one, lengthening the contracted Achilles tendon
and realigning the Os Calcis, or heel bone, while preserving the joints of the hindfoot. If this condition is not recognized before it reaches advanced stages, a fusion of the hindfoot or even the
ankle is necessary. Typically this is necessary in elderly individuals with advanced cases that cannot be improved with bracing.
In cases of PTTD that have progressed substantially or have failed to improve with non-surgical treatment, surgery may be required. For some advanced cases, surgery may be the only option. Your foot
and ankle surgeon will determine the best approach for you.