Abnormal Foot Structures (And What To Do About Them)

Nov 28, 2018

Any architect will tell you how important structure is to keeping any project upright. Whether it’s as simple as a house of cards or as complicated as a skyscraper, the right supports need to be in place to absorb and properly direct all the forces within. If something is off, problems can arise.

Now think of yourself as a building that moves. The forces against your body are constantly shifting—as you walk, run, stand, sit—and your body is well built to keep everything on the level.

But what happens when something is abnormal in your foot structure?

A Flaw in Support

Our feet are masterfully designed to both support us and propel us through life. One of the most important pieces in this design is our arches.

This structure runs from the heel to the base of the toes. When our own weight is bearing down on us, it’s there to absorb the shocks of impact and distribute forces where they belong. And in an uneven world, the arch is there to provide stability and balance whenever we need to adapt to our terrain.

Our arches are amazing! But they’re not always perfect.

Sometimes our arches might be higher or lower than what would be ideal for supporting us. When that happens, forces of weight and movement may not be best managed and problems can develop throughout our entire structure.

High Arches

Also known as cavus foot, high arches reduce your ability to absorb the shock of landing your steps. A normal arch does this by flattening out, but high arches tend to be too rigid to do so as effectively.

People with high arches tend to feel pain when standing or walking. They are also more likely to develop hammertoes, claw toes, or calluses due to extra force being applied to the front of the foot.

Low Arches

Low arches are sometimes also referred to as “flat feet” or “flatfoot” for obvious reasons, as a foot often appears flatter against the ground with little to no visible arch.

While those with flat feet tend to have no problems with shock absorption, the shape of the foot can cause it to roll too far inward when walking. This motion, known as “overpronation,” can alter the distribution of forces while moving. This may result in pain along the arch itself, the heel, or even in the ankles and knees.

How do These Structural Abnormalities Happen?

A common cause of a structural abnormality in the feet is simple genetics. You might have inherited higher or lower arches through your family tree, and there is very little you can do to prevent it.

In other cases, however, the shape of the foot might have changed over time. Each arch is a team of bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons, and when something in that team begins to weaken in some way, it can cause a shift.  

A falling of the arches can take place over time due to the effects of aging or excess weight. Injuries and conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, or nerve disorders can also have an effect.

Most children are also born without arches, only for them to later develop as the child grows older. This is often nothing to worry about, but should be monitored over time to make sure the arches are in fact developing and complications don’t arise.

What to Do About Structural Abnormalities

First, some good news: a structural abnormality does not always mean there is specifically a problem.

If you have flat feet or high arches, but don’t feel any pain or other undesirable effects from them, then treatment isn’t necessary. It’s a bit like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It’s not a normal shape, but it’s stable. Attempts to “fix” it only made it worse, so they’re not going to try anything drastic again until it’s needed!

If pain or other problems are a factor, however, then steps should be taken to manage these symptoms.

Since an imbalance of forces is typically an underlying cause of problems, the corrective abilities of custom orthotics are a frequent consideration for treatment. Orthotics can be made to specifically address your needs, providing the support and balance that can relieve pain not only in the feet, but higher up as well.

When an abnormal foot structure is responsible for other soft tissue injuries, such as plantar fasciitis, our advanced laser treatment for pain can be an effective part of a plan for accelerated healing and relief.

There are other treatments that may be considered depending on the specific causes and conditions that may be present. Surgery might be considered in some uncommon cases, but most problems can be addressed through conservative means.

As with any infrastructure, the sooner a problem is identified and addressed, the more likely that worse problems can be avoided down the road. Just look at our roads and bridges if you want proof!

If you have been suffering from arch pain, heel pain, or ankle pain that just hasn’t improved, it’s time to get to the root of the problem. Our Centerville office is always happy to schedule an appointment with new patients!

Give us a call at (937) 435-7477 to reach our front desk. You may also fill out our online contact form at any time and a member of our staff will get back to you.

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