Flat Feet Increases Your Risk for Ankle Sprains

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What is Flat Feet? 


Flat feet, medically known as pes planus, is a condition where the arches of the feet have collapsed. All babies have flat feet at birth and start developing arches typically by age 6 up to the age of 10. Flat foot tends to be a very common condition in the Asian population with estimates suggesting that it occurs in around 1 in 5 individuals (Podiatrist Gerard Evans from the Department of Podiatry at Sengkang General Hospital).

A quick test can be conducted by looking at the foot position when standing, sitting and walking. Typically, the arches of children may not fully develop until the age of 10, therefore it can be difficult to assess whether they have a flat foot until this age.

If you are still unsure, arrange an appointment with your healthcare providers such as doctors, podiatrists, physiotherapists or chiropractors.

The correlation between flat feet and ankle sprains has emerged as a significant concern, prompting a closer examination into how these two separate conditions influence one another.

 

Ankle Sprains

Ankle sprains occur when the ligaments connecting the bones such as the Anterior Talofibular Ligament (ATFL) and deltoid ligaments of the ankle stretch or tear. A swift misstep, an uneven surface, or sudden pivoting movements can easily cause one’s ankle to sprain resulting in a swollen ankle either due to torn/sprained ligaments and/or sprained muscles/tendons.

Interestingly, individuals with flat feet encounter an amplified susceptibility to ankle sprains. The altered foot mechanics in flat feet contribute to instability, impacting the ankle’s ability to maintain a stable position, thus elevating the risk of sprains.

 

How Do Flat Feet Fuel Ankle Sprains?

Flat feet can contribute to an increased risk of ankle sprains due to altered foot mechanics and reduced stability. Here’s how flat feet can lead to ankle sprains:

  1. Altered Biomechanics: Flat feet change the alignment of the foot. The absence or lowering of the arch reduces the foot’s ability to distribute weight evenly. This altered biomechanics affect the ankle’s ability to maintain stability, making it more susceptible to rolling or twisting upon sudden movements.
  2. Reduced Shock Absorption: The arch in the foot acts as a natural shock absorber. In flat feet, this mechanism is compromised. When walking, running, or engaging in physical activities, the lack of arch support reduces the foot’s ability to absorb shocks effectively. As a result, the impact forces are transmitted differently through the foot and ankle, potentially leading to increased strain on the ankle ligaments.
  3. Muscle Fatigue and Weakness: The muscles and tendons supporting the foot and ankle work differently in individuals with flat feet. Over time, this altered function can lead to fatigue and weakness in the muscles that are responsible for maintaining stability around the ankle. Weakened supporting structures can make the ankle more prone to giving way, leading to sprains.
  4. Increased Pronation: Flat feet often coincide with overpronation, where the foot rolls excessively inward while walking or running. This excessive inward rolling can place additional stress on the ligaments of the ankle, especially during activities that involve sudden changes in direction or uneven surfaces, increasing the risk of ankle sprains.

These factors collectively contribute to a scenario where individuals with flat feet may experience reduced ankle stability and increased susceptibility to ankle sprains, especially during activities that involve sudden movements, changes in direction, or uneven surfaces. Strengthening exercises, proper footwear, and orthotic support can help mitigate these risks by improving foot and ankle stability in individuals with flat feet.

 

Prevention of Ankle Sprains

In the battle against the tandem menace of flat feet and ankle sprains, proactive measures emerge as invaluable shields.

  1. Supportive Footwear and Custom Orthotics. They provide additional support in realigning the feet and reducing the strain on vulnerable ligaments.
  2. Physiotherapy/Physical Therapy. These interventions play a pivotal role in strengthening the feet and ankles, increasing their resilience against potential sprains. Strengthening exercises for the intrinsic foot muscles and balance training sessions are the key components of a strong ankle. 

 

Sprained Ankle Treatment

In the event of flat feet or an ankle sprain, seeking timely intervention is key. Treatment options may include orthotic inserts to provide arch support, physical therapy to strengthen the muscles and ligaments, and, in severe cases, surgical procedures. Ankle sprains often respond well to the R.I.C.E. protocol—rest, ice, compression, and elevation.

 

Conclusion

As we navigate the intricate relationship between flat feet and ankle sprains, embracing a lifestyle that prioritizes foot health becomes imperative. Having regular check-ups with proper footwear selection, and a keen awareness of foot mechanics empower individuals to actively manage these conditions, curbing their impact on daily life.

In closing, understanding the symbiotic bond between flat feet and ankle sprains unveils pathways toward more effective preventive measures and comprehensive management strategies. By deciphering this connection, we pave the way for enhanced foot wellness and a stride towards a more stable, pain-free existence.

 

References: 

  1. Flat Foot/Flat Feet: An Essential Guide https://www.healthxchange.sg/bones-joints/knee-ankle-feet/flat-foot-essential-guide#:~:text=Flat%20foot%20%2F%20flat%20feet%20(pes,around%201%20in%205%20individuals.
  2. Van Boerum DH, Sangeorzan BJ. Biomechanics and pathophysiology of flat foot. Foot Ankle Clin. 2003 Sep;8(3):419-30. doi: 10.1016/s1083-7515(03)00084-6. PMID: 14560896.
  3. Towers JD, Deible CT, Golla SK. Foot and ankle biomechanics. Semin Musculoskelet Radiol. 2003 Mar;7(1):67-74. doi: 10.1055/s-2003-41086. PMID: 12888945.
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