It’s no secret that Las Vegas likes to gamble. Sure, we have other hobbies—outdoor exploring, art and music, watching our new hockey team crush the rest of the NHL. But gambling will always be part of our culture. Can’t win big without a little risk, right?
When it comes to your long-term health, the only wise course of action is to play it safe. That’s certainly true of flat feet, regardless of when it develops.
Why is it a gamble to ignore your flat feet?
As with any game of chance, there is a range of possible outcomes—some good, some bad. If you get lucky, you might live your whole life with flat arches and never have a problem. No pain, no foot fatigue, no difficulty wearing shoes, no reduction in mobility or quality of life.
If you’re unlucky, though?
Flat feet can be a major contributor to development of chronic problems like heel pain, arch pain, ankle swelling, gait abnormalities, and higher risk of injury—just to name a few. These problems may worsen over time until the discomfort is unbearable and surgery is the only answer.
Basically, you’re putting it all on red and letting it ride. Only in this case, considering what you’re wagering, the payout stinks—you simply get to go on as normal. The only thing you “win” is not having to receive treatment.
What do your arches do, anyway?
Arches are an important component in the way that your feet support your weight, cushion your body, and even propel you forward.
You have three “arches” underneath your feet that together form something of a pitched triangle—one on the medial side, one on the lateral side, and a “transverse” arch that connects them across the ball of the foot—but for the sake of simplicity we’ll consider them a single unit.
Arches are designed to flex and roll gently when you take a step and shift your weight onto the foot. The most obvious benefit is that it allows them to act as a shock absorber. Impact forces can be spread out over a longer period, reducing the potential wear and tear on muscles, bones, and joints.
There’s also a biomechanical advantage. The energy stored up in a fully flexed arch gets released when you push off with that same foot, helping to propel you in the direction you’re going. In other words, it puts a literal spring in your step.
When your arches aren’t structured properly, the feet can’t do the job of shouldering the load of standing, walking, and playing as efficiently. That can lead to pain, fatigue, and breakdown.
Now, let’s take a closer look at some of the different ways that flat arches can manifest.
Flat feet in children
As it turns out, a huge percentage of kids have visible flat arches during their early childhood. This is particularly noticeable when they’re first starting to walk.
At that age, arches are still developing and maturing and haven’t “risen” to their adult height yet. In fact, you may notice that these flat feet are “flexible” and disappear and reappear based on whether or not your child is standing.
A 3-year-old with flat feet probably isn’t worth a trip to see us—yet. But do keep a very close eye on them as they grow. For most kids, those flat feet start to phase out quickly after the toddler years.
If, however, your child’s arches still haven’t grown in by age 6 or so, it’s a good idea to schedule a precautionary checkup. You should also bring them in if you notice any signs of discomfort or pain associated with their flat feet. If they’re limping, shying away from active play, asking you to carry them all the time, or pulling off their shoes at every opportunity, it could indicate a more significant problem.
So yes, it is true that most kids do grow out of their flat feet and never experience any negative symptoms. Some, unfortunately, roll “snake eyes.” If, for example, the flat arch is caused by a rigid deformity or fusion of bones in the hindfoot (tarsal coalition), pain and limitation are much more common, and surgery is often necessary to correct the problem.
Flat feet in adults
Of course, many adults have flat feet that are “carried over” from their childhood—their arches simply never came in. At this point, if you aren’t experiencing any symptoms, you’re probably in the clear, at least for now. Congrats!
However, if you’ve noticed your once-sturdy arches have started flattening over the years, you might be in for more pain. Most of the time, this is caused by chronic stretching, tearing, and weakening of the posterior tibial tendon—the tendon most responsible for “holding up” the arch.
Again, this is something you don’t want to gamble with. If you do nothing, adult-acquired flatfoot tends to get progressively worse and worse. You might not feel much pain now, but trust us—it’s coming. If you get out ahead of it, you’ll probably be able to avoid any serious symptoms and provide your feet with the extra support they need using custom orthotics. If you wait too long, you might “go bust” and be faced with surgery as your only legitimate option.
Don’t risk it
Many people live full, active, pain-free lives with flat feet. Many people, however, aren’t so fortunate. Don’t leave it up to the turn of a friendly care. Stop in at the Absolute Foot Care Specialists of Las Vegas for an evaluation and list of treatment options, should they be necessary. You can reach us anytime at (702) 839-2010.