Should I Wear Custom Orthotics For Flat Feet?
Flat Feet Intro
Flat feet and the problems that go with them are the most common reason for people to seek a custom orthotics prescription.
Having flat feet can be a serious cause of pain and injury for many people, this is old knowledge. Even back in the day when they were screening soldiers for WW1 having flat feet were a barrier to entry into the military because they knew that flat footed soldiers could be an injury prone liability. Flat feet have been implicated in a host of pain and injury issues over the years.
A great way to understand flat feet is to realise that essentially flat feet have very poor postural alignment. Imagine a person with really bad spinal posture and quite a hunched back – that situation is very similar in nature to the flat feet situation. Both flat feet and classic poor spinal posture involve the following – muscle weakness – genetic shape of bones – environment – lifestyle factors.
Foot Misalignment & Repetetive Strain
The reason flat feet cause pain and injury problems like plantar fasciitis, back pain, knee pain and hip pain is constant repetitive misalignment of the foot and leg bones during weight bearing. If the arch collapses under weight bearing the ankle folds in, the knee internally rotates and the hip also internally rotates in an awkward way. These relatively small but unnatural movements repeated millions of times cause ‘repetitive strain’ which can eventually undermine the tissues.
Ankle sprains, plantar fasciitis, heel pain, hip bursitis, ACL injuries, meniscus tears, muscle strains, ITB syndrome and hernia’s are but a few of the issues that can be majorly contributed to by flat feet. These are also the issues that so often have people with flat feet seeking support and help from custom orthotic devices.
In an environmental sense it could be said that having flat feet might not be as much of an issue for us if we had not invented concrete, tarmac and paving. There is no intrinsic support under our feet now, not the way there was when we still lived outdoors. The lack of shock absorption and support under our feet in the modern world is a major issue for all of us but especially for people who have flat feet but don’t wear custom orthotics.
Since long before our direct ancestors were even in vaguely human form and still walked on all 4’s – they walked on soft, natural surfaces. A million generations of human ancestors evolved walking on soft ground. Moving around in the big outdoors is a very different life for the feet than living in the urban environment.
Hard flat ‘urban terrain’ like paving & concrete is incredibly stressful not only to the joints of the feet but to the joints in the entire lower half of the body because it doesn’t absorb shock. Imagine the feeling of jumping down off a sea wall onto the beach and letting your heels squash into the sand… now imagine the feeling of jumping that same height onto concrete heels first .. big diff !!!!! The first option can be done for fun, the second option could cause significant injury. This is a window of visualisation into what the real difference is between surfaces like concrete and natural terrain… remembering that we take millions of steps per year.
For those with the combination of physical factors we call flat feet, the absence of shock absorption and support combined with hard flat surfaces is particularly disastrous … remembering that the the arch of the foot is a shock absorber !
Custom Orthotics For People With Flat Feet?
Custom orthotics provide shock absorption for the heel and the arch of people with flat feet, they also provide a dynamic flexible surface for the arch to interact with. This combination of factors mimics the natural surfaces that your feet evolved to live on.
When a person with flat feet puts in their orthotics they sometimes feel completely different straight away. Many find that in a matter of weeks they don’t want to go anywhere without their custom orthotics in their shoes. This is because a biological need that their body has been deprived of for a long time has finally been met. Thereafter most report a gradual reduction in the symptoms that came with their flat feet, be it foot pain, plantar fasciitis, heel pain, ankle sprains, knee pain, hip bursitis, IT band syndrome or lower back and hip pain.
The truth is that the fundamental reason custom orthotics are so desperately important for people with flat feet are quality of life and basic physical freedom. Being able to move around comfortably without pain and without the threat of injury forms one of the most basic building block of our happiness.
The ability to lead a normal active life without pain and limitation of movement is a big deal … just ask anyone who has experienced the loss of this and they will let you know. . These facts are what the importance of orthotics for flat feet really boils down to.
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Pain is a symptom. Symptoms are the feedback that the body generates when it faces problems with its delicate internal balance (homeostasis). Without symptoms like pain, thirst, nausea and fevers, it would be very difficult for us to maintain a healthy body in the same way that it would be hard to drive a car safely with no dashboard display.
John is one of those rare gentlemen who has continued to play competitive soccer well into his late 50s. He is in really good shape, which you need to be to play football at that age—good shape except for his left leg. His left leg is not in good condition at all. In fact, once you get to know his left leg a bit better, it becomes apparent that it’s miraculous that he’s able to run at all, Let alone the type of running required to play competitive soccer against younger men.