Have flat feet? You’re not alone. In fact, perhaps 1 out of every 4 Americans has flat feet, usually because their arches never developed at all, and most of them live healthy, normal lives with no more foot pain than those with normal arches.
However, sometimes as a result of injury, aging, trauma, illness, or prolonged stress, normal arches flatten and collapse later in life, a condition known as adult-acquired flatfoot. This can be quite painful, especially during periods of exercise and activity, and may require surgery to provide adequate relief.
Do I Need Flatfoot Reconstruction Surgery?
Not everyone with adult-acquired flat feet needs surgery. In many cases, conservative options such as physical therapy, arch supports, braces, or custom orthotics can provide substantial relief. There are also a few situations where surgery is not recommended or at least considered with an abundance of caution. For example, those with diabetes may not be able to undergo surgery safely, while patients who smoke or are obese may be a greater risk for complications such as blood clots.
However, if pain and mobility impairment are severe enough that daily activities become difficult or impossible, and non-invasive treatments do not yield relief even after several months, surgery is likely your best option.
What Is Surgery Like? What Are the Benefits?
Every foot is different, so your doctor will plan the surgery based on the specific shape of your foot, the extent and location of the damage, and other factors. Procedures may include cutting the heel and sliding it back into proper position, cutting and realigning bones, and repairing or transferring ligaments and tendons to support the arch. Screws and plates are used to hold the realigned bones in place. Your doctor will inform you of the specific techniques that will be used in your operation.
The goal of reconstruction surgery is not just to give you a good-looking arch. In fact, while aesthetics usually improve, this is not the primary objective. Restoring a healthy foot shape and improving the alignment of bones and tendons helps distribute forces across your feet in a more balanced manner and can significantly reduce standing and walking pain to help you regain a normal gait. If flat feet are preventing you from completing daily activities or participating in hobbies you used to enjoy, flatfoot reconstruction may be the best way to give you back that ability and independence.
What about Post-Operative Recovery?
Recovery times vary, depending on your health and how well you follow post-operative instructions. In the most typical case, you should rest and keep your foot elevated for the first two weeks. At that point, the original cast and sutures are removed, and replaced with a new cast or walking boot.
Generally speaking, it takes about 2 months before you can begin gently putting weight on the repaired foot again, with a return to full weight bearing coming around the 3 month mark or later. At this time you may be able to return to wearing normal shoes, although additional supports such as inserts or braces may be recommend.
A complete recovery usually takes around 6 months, and can take up to a year. While most patients do not experience significant complications and can live healthy, active lifestyles after surgery, we generally discourage participation in particularly strenuous sports or physical activities that require a lot of running, cutting, or jumping.
Let Carolina Podiatry Group Help
At Carolina Podiatry Group, our expert podiatrists can help you find relief for your adult-acquired flatfoot pain. We want to spare you the knife if we can, and will pursue all non-invasive avenues first before considering reconstruction. However, sometimes it is the only way to return to a normal lifestyle.
We know surgery is a big decision and recovery is often slow, but if you are struggling with daily, debilitating pain, the wait is more than worth it. To schedule an appointment to discuss your options, please give us a call at 803-285-1411, or toll free at 888-569-9559.