Adult acquired flatfoot
is one of the most common problems affecting the foot and ankle. Treatment ranges from nonsurgical
methods, such as orthotics and braces to surgery. Your doctor will create a treatment plan for you based on what is causing your AAFD.
Adult flatfoot typically occurs very gradually. If often develops in an obese person who already has somewhat flat feet. As the person ages, the tendons and ligaments that support the foot begin to
lose their strength and elasticity.
Some symptoms of adult acquired flat foot are pain along the inside of the foot and ankle, pain that increases with activity, and difficulty walking for long periods of time. You may experience
difficulty standing, pain on the outside of the ankle, and bony bumps on the top of the foot and inside the foot. You may also have numbness and tingling of the feet and toes (may result from large
bone spurs putting pressure on nerves), swelling, a large bump on the sole of the foot and/or an ulcer (in diabetic patients). Diabetic patients should wear a properly fitting diabetic shoe wear to
prevent these complications from happening.
The adult acquired flatfoot, secondary to posterior tibial tendon dysfunction, is diagnosed in a number of ways with no single test proven to be totally reliable. The most accurate diagnosis is made
by a skilled clinician utilizing observation and hands on evaluation of the foot and ankle. Observation of the foot in a walking examination is most reliable. The affected foot appears more pronated
and deformed compared to the unaffected foot. Muscle testing will show a strength deficit. An easy test to perform in the office is the single foot raise. A patient is asked to step with full body
weight on the symptomatic foot, keeping the unaffected foot off the ground. The patient is then instructed to "raise up on the tip toes" of the affected foot. If the posterior tibial tendon has been
attenuated or ruptured, the patient will be unable to lift the heel off the floor and rise onto the toes. In less severe cases, the patient will be able to rise on the toes, but the heel will not be
noted to invert as it normally does when we rise onto the toes. X-rays can be helpful but are not diagnostic of the adult acquired flatfoot. Both feet - the symptomatic and asymptomatic - will
demonstrate a flatfoot deformity on x-ray. Careful observation may show a greater severity of deformity on the affected side.
Non surgical Treatment
Initial treatment consists of supporting the medial longitudinal arch (running the length of the foot) to relieve strain on the medial soft tissues. The most effective way to relieve pain on the
tendon is to use a boot or brace, and once tenderness and pain has resolved, an orthotic device. A boot, brace, or orthotic has not been shown to correct or even prevent the progression of deformity.
Orthotics can alleviate symptoms and may slow the progression of deformity, particularly if mild. The deformity may progress despite orthotics.
Many operations are available for the treatment of dysfunction of the posterior tibial tendon after a thorough program of non-operative treatment has failed. The type of operation that is selected is
determined by the age, weight, and level of activity of the patient as well as the extent of the deformity. The clinical stages outlined previously are a useful guide to operative care (Table I). In
general, the clinician should perform the least invasive procedure that will decrease pain and improve function. One should consider the effects of each procedure, particularly those of arthrodesis,
on the function of the rest of the foot and ankle.