Collapsed arches occur in five percent of adults 40 years and older, especially those who are overweight or maintain sedentary lifestyles. At the onset of the condition, adult acquired flatfoot
can be controlled with anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy,
taping, bracing, and orthotics. While most cases of adult-onset flatfoot require surgery, congenital flatfoot is an entirely different condition that is best treated with orthotics in children.
Ninety percent of children born with flat feet will be fine with conservative treatment.
There are multiple factors contributing to the development of this problem. Damage to the nerves, ligaments, and/or tendons of the foot can cause subluxation (partial dislocation) of the subtalar or
talonavicular joints. Bone fracture is a possible cause. The resulting joint deformity from any of these problems can lead to adult-acquired flatfoot deformity. Dysfunction of the posterior tibial
tendon has always been linked with adult-acquired flatfoot deformity (AAFD). The loss of active and passive pull of the tendon alters the normal biomechanics of the foot and ankle. The reasons for
this can be many and varied as well. Diabetes, high blood pressure, and prolonged use of steroids are some of the more common causes of adult-acquired flatfoot deformity (AAFD) brought on by
impairment of the posterior tibialis tendon. Overstretching or rupture of the tendon results in tendon and muscle imbalance in the foot leading to adult-acquired flatfoot deformity (AAFD). Rheumatoid
arthritis is one of the more common causes. About half of all adults with this type of arthritis will develop adult flatfoot deformity over time. In such cases, the condition is gradual and
progressive. Obesity has been linked with this condition. Loss of blood supply for any reason in the area of the posterior tibialis tendon is another factor. Other possible causes include bone
fracture or dislocation, a torn or stretched tendon, or a neurologic condition causing weakness.
Pain along the inside of the foot and ankle, where the tendon lies. This may or may not be associated with swelling in the area. Pain that is worse with activity. High-intensity or high-impact
activities, such as running, can be very difficult. Some patients can have trouble walking or standing for a long time. Pain on the outside of the ankle. When the foot collapses, the heel bone may
shift to a new position outwards. This can put pressure on the outside ankle bone. The same type of pain is found in arthritis in the back of the foot. Asymmetrical collapsing of the medial arch on
the affected side.
The diagnosis of posterior tibial tendon dysfunction and AAFD is usually made from a combination of symptoms, physical exam and x-ray imaging. The location of pain, shape of the foot, flexibility of
the hindfoot joints and gait all may help your physician make the diagnosis and also assess how advanced the problem is.
Non surgical Treatment
Treatment depends very much upon a patient?s symptoms, functional goals, degree and specifics of deformity, and the presence of arthritis. Some patients get better without surgery. Rest and
immobilization, orthotics, braces and physical therapy all may be appropriate. With early-stage disease that involves pain along the tendon, immobilization with a boot for a period of time can
relieve stress on the tendon and reduce the inflammation and pain. Once these symptoms have resolved, patients are often transitioned into an orthotic that supports the inside aspect of the hindfoot.
For patients with more significant deformity, a larger ankle brace may be necessary.
Surgical correction is dependent on the severity of symptoms and the stage of deformity. The goals of surgery are to create a more functional and stable foot. There are multiple procedures available
to the surgeon and it may take several to correct a flatfoot deformity. Usually surgical treatment begins with removal of inflammatory tissue and repair of the posterior tibial tendon. A tendon
transfer is performed if the posterior tibial muscle is weak or the tendon is badly damaged. The most commonly used tendon is the flexor digitorum longus tendon. This tendon flexes or moves the
lesser toes downward. The flexor digitorum longus tendon is utilized due to its close proximity to the posterior tibial tendon and because there are minimal side effects with its loss. The remainder
of the tendon is sutured to the flexor hallucis longus tendon that flexes the big toe so that little function is loss.