Fallen arches, also called flat feet or pes planus, is a condition in which the entire bottom of the foot touches the ground when a person is standing. A normal foot has an arch between the heel and the ball of the foot. Fallen arches are typically an acquired condition, though flat feet may be present from childhood if the arch never developed in the first place. In some cases, usually those in which the arch never developed, flat feet are not a cause for concern. If they develop in adulthood, however, causing a rigid flat foot, the condition is usually accompanied by pain and can cause serious health issues.
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.
Fallen arches may be caused by a number of causes, including increased elastin during pregnancy, arthritis, injury, excessive stress on the foot, fused bones in the foot, or an extra bone. They may cause not only foot pain, but also pain in the legs, knees, and back and a loss of mobility. The condition is most often treated with orthotics, structures placed in the shoes to support the feet, but this may not be enough for severe cases. Exercises to strengthen and rebuild the arches can also be helpful. Surgery is sometimes the best method of treatment, as it can completely rebuild the arches and has lasting results, but it is quite expensive and considered a last resort.