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HealthWatch: The Truth About ‘Flat Feet’

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(Credit: CBS 2)

(Credit: CBS 2)

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If you consider that each step an adult takes places 900 pounds per square inch of pressure on the bottom of the feet, it’s not surprising that foot pain is one of the most common complaints.

Worn-out arches can fall, leaving feet painful and swollen, but there are some simple techniques that can help, reports CBS 2’s Dr. Holly Phillips.

“I just couldn’t run around anymore – I couldn’t play,” Jacqueline Wideen said.

Wideen, 16, is a soccer star at the Bronx High School of Science, but one day foot pain almost put an end to her athletic career.

“It was a sharp pain in the bottom of my foot,” Wideen said. “It was almost like a pulled muscle.”

At first, she thought a new pair of cleats was to blame, but a visit to the doctor nailed the diagnosis.

“He said that I had flat feet, I had collapsed arches,” Wideen said.

Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Neil Roth specializes in sports injuries, and he says the condition is common.

“One thing that can be a common denominator is flat feet, or painful feet. A lot of times, it’s from overuse,” Dr. Roth, of Lenox Hill Hospital, said.

You don’t have to be an athlete to suffer pain from the condition, however. Aging, obesity, or even standing on your feet for long hours at work can weaken the tibial tendon on the inside of the ankle, causing the arch to collapse. Others even have naturally flat feet.

About 20 percent of adults who have flat feet were actually born with them, though they may not develop symptoms until their fifties or sixties.

Symptoms include pain under the arch of the foot, tenderness, and swelling on the inside of the ankle.

“The basic way to diagnosis this is always a physical examination, but we supplement that with X-rays as well,” Dr. Roth said.

Exercises can strengthen the foot and prevent your arches from collapsing, like standing on your toes or picking up objects with your feet. Shoe insoles provide extra support for the arches.

Wideen has been doing exercises for just a week, and she already sees a difference.

“The pain isn’t really there anymore,” she said.

Anti-inflammatory medications and rest are also options for treatment, but in rare cases patients undergo surgery.

Women who wear high heels for long periods of time are at a particularly high risk for flat feet. The heels cause the Achilles tendon in the back of the calf to shorten and tighten, damaging the arch. Over time, it may feel more comfortable for women with the condition to wear heels rather than flat shoes.

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