What causes flat feet?
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.
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.
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 (see picture below). 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.
Talus position in normal (above) and in flat feet (below).
Flat feet are so common that many people think that it is normal. Technically speaking, a flat foot is actually a displaced, sometimes dislocated joint. Dislocated joints are never accepted as 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. The level of correction is age dependent.
Options for flat feet treatment
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.
Custom orthotics for flat feet are made of medical grade plastics, the thickness of which is calculated based on your body weight, and are covered with very comfortable soft materials. To create such custom-made orthotics, your foot impression is first needed for our Singapore clinic to create a 3D image of your foot. The image is then manipulated using medical software. The most advanced and accurate method currently available – and with a high success rate – uses CAD/CAM (robotics) to shape the plastic in accordance with the corrected foot structure. Foot exercises and foot joint manipulation cannot correct flat feet.