Flat foot is a common condition that affects as many as one in four Americans. This condition occurs when the arch bones in your feet are low to the ground when you stand. Many people can carry on as usual with flat feet, and it never causes an issue, but for others, having flat feet can cause pain, difficulty walking, and other issues. There are various solutions available for flat feet, and one of these options is surgery. In order to know if you are a good candidate for surgery, it’s important to understand flat feet and how surgery can help.
Flat Feet and the Surgery Solution
Flat feet usually begin in childhood. As your feet grow and develop, the tissues and ligaments in the feet tighten together and form a permanent arch. People who develop flat feet may not go through this tightening process due to various factors, including:
- Ill-fitting shoes during the developmental years
- Physical activities that negatively affect development
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Flat foot surgery involves a reconstruction process that repairs the ligaments, tendons, and even actual bone structure that did not develop properly due to the above issues. The surgical procedure itself will vary depending upon the cause of the flat feet and what symptoms you are hoping to remedy.
Most people can avoid surgery through other means, including custom orthotics. So how do you know if you are a good candidate for a flat foot surgical procedure?
First, know that there’s no age restriction. Depending upon what’s causing the flat feet, it can be an effective surgery for children, seniors, and everyone in between. Other aspects that make you an ideal candidate include:
- Your flat feet have been diagnosed by X-ray
- You’re in good health and can tolerate general anesthesia
- You have already exhausted non-surgical treatments
- You live with a level of orthopedic pain that disrupts daily life
What Flat Foot Surgery Involves
Anyone having any type of surgery should be as informed on the process as possible, and flat feet surgery is no exception. Here’s what you might expect to experience during the procedure.
The Different Types of Surgeries
There are a few different types of surgery for correcting flat feet. Your podiatrist will be able to determine which is best for you.
- Tendon transfer. This involves moving a tendon from one bone to the other to resolve any deformities causing flat feet.
- Osteotomies. Cutting and sliding bones into different locations can improve flat feet.
- Fusions. In this procedure, joints are fused together to reduce pain.
Surgery might correct both feet at once, or you might have the procedure done on just one foot at first. Surgery is always done under general anesthesia and usually requires at least a one-night hospital stay.
What the Process Might Look Like
While your exact surgical procedure will be customized to you and your specific issues, there is a standard process that you can expect to undergo, at least in part. First, your surgeon will likely make three small incisions into your foot and ankle. The tendon linked to your flat feet will be replaced with a tendon relocated from another part of the foot. Next, the surgeon will reset the bone at the heel to correct any positioning. This might involve the insertion of a metal screw or plate. The end goal of the surgery is always to increase your arch.
Following surgery, you will receive a topical anesthetic and oral pain medications. You will also likely have a cast that stretches from toe to knee to ensure your foot remains in one position during the healing process. Recovery can be lengthy. You will be off your feet for at least six weeks. It’s important you go to every single appointment scheduled to ensure as quick a recovery as possible, including physical therapy to preserve range of motion.
Flat Feet Surgery for Children
While all ages can benefit from this surgery, it is a delicate issue with children, as their feet are still developing and changing. For this reason, most children will not receive the procedure until they are 10-12 years of age. Flat feet are a common concern for many parents, but kids are naturally born with flat feet. It is important to wait for the growth process to be at least mostly complete before surgery, as the bones and tendons are still moving and developing.
Start With Other Options
Surgery should always be the last option, as it is invasive, and the healing process can last several months. Working closely with an experienced podiatrist can open the door to many treatment options, including custom orthotics and therapies. When these methods do not help, or you have daily, debilitating pain, then a podiatrist will likely recommend surgery as an option.
At InStride Carolina Podiatry Group, we have the expertise necessary to make a fair determination regarding your need for flat feet surgery. Call us today to schedule a consultation and see what the best solutions are for you personally.