Dr. Vincent Giacalone
Podiatric Medicine & Surgery
466 Hook Rd., Suite 24D, Emerson, NJ 07630
What are Flat Feet?
Flat feet can happen at any age, and babies are born with them. Babies have fatty pads in the soles of the foot and in front of the heel, which fills the arch and gives feet their flat appearance. By age 3 years, when they are walking properly, their feet no longer have a flat look. From ages 3 to 6 years, the muscles of the foot become stronger, the fat disappears, and an arch develops. If the arches have not appeared by about age 5 or 6, as happens with approximately one in every 10 children, a child is likely to have flat feet through adulthood.
If the soles of a person’s shoes are worn out on the inside edge, that person probably has flat feet. People may have flat feet but still have good muscle tone and no pain. If feet are extremely flat, a doctor may recommend orthotics (arch supports) in a firm shoe to enable the person to walk without foot strain.
What Makes Feet Flat?
For some people, flat feet are the result of congenital bone malformation, evident if Dr. Giacalone takes x-rays. For others, flat feet develop later. Each day as people walk, they take 8,000 to 10,000 steps on pavement, floor, tile, and other surfaces. With each step a person takes, gravity-induced pressure puts three to four times the body’s weight on each foot. Over the years, the imbalance on the muscles of the feet may cause a disorder in the natural arch. Excessive weight or pounding stress may cause the longitudinal (lonj-i-TOO-di-nal) arch (which runs the length of the foot) or the metatarsal (met-a-TAR-sal) arch (which runs perpendicular to the longitudinal arch, from one side of the foot to the other) to fall, or flatten. Other causes of flat feet are shoes that do not fit well, obesity, rickets, and metabolic disorders that may cause the arch muscles to weaken. In older adults, decreased exercise and increased weight can cause mechanical disturbances in the foot.
What’s Bad About Flat Feet?
Flat feet in themselves are not a problem. But running on flat feet is almost like running on gelatin. Flat feet turn inward (overpronation), causing legs to turn inward, and contribute to such “overuse” injuries as shin splints and back problems. Flat feet also can produce heel spurs. If pain develops as a result of any of these conditions, flat feet and the problems they cause need treatment.
Correcting Flat Feet
- Reducing pronation can help to prevent further problems. Dr. Giacalone recommends;
- Buying shoes with arch support.
- Buying shoes that are motion controlled, or stability shoes with a medial post.
- Avoiding shoes with lots of cushioning and little support.
- Avoiding uneven running surfaces like golf courses and trails.
- Surgery is rarely recommended for flat feet alone.
- What is the non-surgical treatment for Flat Feet?
The most common and often effective treatment for flat feet are orthotics. Orthotics are shoe inserts that are intended to correct an abnormal, or irregular, walking pattern. Orthotics are not truly or solely “arch supports,” although some people use those words to describe them, and they perhaps can best be understood with those words in mind. They perform functions that make standing, walking and running more comfortable and efficient, by altering slightly the angles at which the foot strikes a walking or running surface. Dr. Giacalone prescribe orthotics as a conservative approach to many foot problems or as a method of control after certain types of foot surgery; the use of orthotics is a highly successful, practical treatment form. Orthotics take various forms and are constructed of various materials. They are concerned with improving foot function and minimizing stress forces that could ultimately cause foot deformity and pain. Foot orthotics fall into three broad categories: those that primarily attempt to change foot function, those that are primarily protective in nature, and those that combine functional control and protection.
Dr. Giacalone has been trained specifically and extensively in the diagnosis and medical and surgical treatment of foot disorders. Dr. Giacalone has been board certified by The American Board of Podiatric Orthopedics and The American Board of Podiatric Surgery since 1993 and 1995 respectively and is a Fellow of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons. Dr. Giacalone performs surgery at Hackensack University Medical Center in Hackensack, Hackensack University Medical Center @ Pascack Valley in Westwood and Surgicare Surgical Center in Oradell.