Anyone who’s ever played hide and seek knows what a thrill it is to be well-
hidden somewhere, perhaps only a breath or two away from the soft shoe
scuffs of the seeker, almost bursting out laughing because you know if they
just twitched the curtain aside, took one step behind them, or shifted the
branch slightly they’d see you, grinning, right before you dashed off to
whatever upended pot, tree stump or floor-strewn sweatshirt was ‘safe.’
Possibly jealous of these childhood exploits, the arches in your feet may
want to get in on the hide-and-seek action. Enter the condition known as
People with flexible flat feet have arches that disappear when they put
weight on their feet, but which reappear when the feet are not weight-
bearing, or when they go up on their toes. In fact, this reappearance of
the arch while the foot is non-weight bearing is really what separates this
type of flatfoot from other types. It’s as though the arches take toe-
standing as a general call of olly-olly-oxen-free: time to come out and
tease the seeker about how great your hiding place was. In short, the
arches pretty much think this is the best game ever.
Flexible flat feet usually appear during childhood or sometimes a little
older, and then stick around into adulthood (arches that have gotten into
the habit of hide-and-seek like to keep playing indefinitely). While often
innocuous, this condition (like any childhood game) can get a bit rough.
Because flexible flat feet cause the tendons to stretch more than they’re
really designed for, these tendons can become inflamed and cause the
condition to get progressively worse over time. Unfortunately, this type of
flatfoot usually shows up in both feet, although you may not have painful
symptoms in both.
If you’ve got flexible flat feet, you’re going to have feet that appear
flat while you’re standing (or that leave wet full footprints when you step
out of the shower), but which get an arch when you’re off your feet, or
when you stand on your toes. Some other things might also change about the
appearance of your foot: your toes and the front of your foot may start to
turn outwards (i.e. towards the pinky toe), so that when you look at your
foot from behind (or have someone look for you), you’ll see more toes than
you should. The bottom of your heel may also tilt outward, and your ankle
may turn inward.
When your feet are flat (and your arches have disappeared off to who-knows-
where), it changes the way your weight is placed on your foot, and the way
you move when you walk. Because of this, people with flexible flat foot may
feel pain in parts of their body that are moving or bearing weight
abnormally. For instance, in the foot, you may start to feel pain in your
heel, arch (when your arches are willing to be found), ankle, or on the
outside of your foot. You may also experience pain up into your legs (shin
splints, usually), knees, hips, and lower back. Or, to keep things all
equal, you may have a general ache in your legs or feet. You may also
develop other symptoms such as a tight Achilles tendon, bunions and
hammertoes. All fun and games, right?
Your podiatrist is an excellent arch-seeker, and if you have flexible
flatfoot, he or she will be able to coax it out of hiding. Making the
diagnosis usually involves observing your foot both while it’s bearing your
weight, and while you’re sitting or standing on your toes. Sometimes X-rays
are used to find out just how far your flexible flatfoot has progressed.
If you’re not experiencing any pain with your flexible flat feet, then
treatment may not be required. However, orthotics (prescription shoe
inserts) may still be a good idea, to try to prevent future problems.
Conversely, if your hideaway arch is causing problems such as pain or other
symptoms, there are a few things you can do (or your doctor can do for you)
to provide the support you need.
Again, orthotics often help correct the imbalances in the foot, and may be
useful in providing extra support and realigning your foot properly. Shoes
and shoe inserts that support the arch are particularly helpful for obvious
In addition, you may wish to eliminate or at least reduce the types of
activities that are currently causing you pain, at least until your
symptoms die down. (Discomfort and pain from flexible flat feet often
occurs with certain types of activity, such as walking, running and
prolonged standing.) If being overweight is adding to the stress on your
feet, you may wish to talk to your doctor about weight loss. Losing weight
may significantly reduce your symptoms.
You can also reduce inflammation in your foot by immobilization (often
through use of casts or braces, or sometimes being completely off your feet
for awhile), taking anti-inflammatory medication (such as ibuprofen), and
undergoing physical therapy, such as ultrasound treatments.
If these methods fail to significantly reduce your pain, then surgery may
be the best option to get your arches to stop playing around. Your
podiatrist can discuss the options available to you.
Call 719-543-2476 today to schedule your appointment!