Ewa Rolston

The Globe's Premier Foot Site

What Can You Do About Fallen Arches?


Acquired Flat Foot

Rigid fallen arches are usually easy to distinguish from the flexible variety by the pain the cause, but there is a simple test that a person can perform if he is not sure. He should stand on the toes, and if the arch appears, the condition is known as flexible flat foot and is nothing to worry about. There have been Olympic runners with flat feet of this kind. On the other hand, if the foot remains flat on the bottom when the person stands on his toes, the condition is rigid, and the individual should consult a podiatrist. The same is true if a person notices any change in the arches of his feet or if he as foot pain, whether or not this test suggests he has flexible flat feet.


When flat feet develop at a later age, they are known as fallen arches. The arches may fall because the muscles supporting them are no longer able to do so. In addition the spring ligament within the foot may have lost some of its tension allowing the arch of the foot to flatten. Other conditions causing fallen arches include sudden weight gain, a nervous system injury, or a loss of sensation caused by a disease such as diabetes. Most people with fallen arches are flat on both feet.


Many people have flat feet and notice no problems and require no treatment. But others may experience the following symptoms, Feet tire easily, painful or achy feet, especially in the areas of the arches and heels, the inside bottom of your feet become swollen, foot movement, such as standing on your toes, is difficult, back and leg pain, If you notice any of these symptoms, it's time for a trip to the doctor.


Your doctor examines your feet to determine two things, whether you have flat feet and the cause or causes. An exam may include the following steps, Checking your health history for evidence of illnesses or injuries that could be linked to flat feet or fallen arches, Looking at the soles of your shoes for unusual wear patterns, Observing the feet and legs as you stand and do simple movements, such as raising up on your toes, Testing the strength of muscles and tendons, including other tendons in the feet and legs, such as the Achilles tendon or the posterior tibial tendon, Taking X-rays or an MRI of your feet.

fallen arches support

Non Surgical Treatment

Treatment often consists of giving the affected foot support from underneath so that the strain is taken off it (by the use of insoles or support pads) and so symptoms are relieved. A specialist in this problem is known as a podiatrist and these do work in the NHS - ask you father's doctor whether his condition is bad enough to warrant a referral to such a specialist.

Surgical Treatment

Adult Acquired Flat Foot

Common indications for surgery are cerebral palsy with an equinovalgus foot, to prevent progression and breakdown of the midfoot. Rigid and painful Pes Planus. To prevent progression, eg with a Charcot joint. Tibialis posterior dysfunction, where non-surgical treatment is unsuccessful. Possible surgical procedures include Achilles tendon lengthening. Calcaneal osteotomy, to re-align the hindfoot. Reconstruction of the tibialis posterior tendon. For severe midfoot collapse of the arch, triple arthrodesis may be indicated.

After Care

Patients may go home the day of surgery or they may require an overnight hospital stay. The leg will be placed in a splint or cast and should be kept elevated for the first two weeks. At that point, sutures are removed. A new cast or a removable boot is then placed. It is important that patients do not put any weight on the corrected foot for six to eight weeks following the operation. Patients may begin bearing weight at eight weeks and usually progress to full weightbearing by 10 to 12 weeks. For some patients, weightbearing requires additional time. After 12 weeks, patients commonly can transition to wearing a shoe. Inserts and ankle braces are often used. Physical therapy may be recommended. There are complications that relate to surgery in general. These include the risks associated with anesthesia, infection, damage to nerves and blood vessels, and bleeding or blood clots. Complications following flatfoot surgery may include wound breakdown or nonunion (incomplete healing of the bones). These complications often can be prevented with proper wound care and rehabilitation. Occasionally, patients may notice some discomfort due to prominent hardware. Removal of hardware can be done at a later time if this is an issue. The overall complication rates for flatfoot surgery are low.