Posterior tibial tendon dysfunction (commonly referred to as “acquired flatfoot”) is one of the most common deformities of the foot and ankle that I see in the clinic. Chances are likely that you or someone you know will encounter it at some point in time. Despite its frequency, there are still some misconceptions about the condition floating around. Below are five things that you should know about acquired flatfoot, whether you’re facing the condition, trying to prevent it, or simply curious.
It’s not the same as having flat feet
If you’ve ever been told that you have “flat feet,” you should know that it’s not the same as acquired flat foot, nor will it cause it. Having “flat feet” means that you have dropped arches. While that can come with it’s own complications, it can usually be relieved with supportive shoes or inserts. On the other hand, acquired flat foot occurs when the posterior tibial tendon is torn or degenerative — and then stretches. This causes the arch of the foot to flatten. As the condition progresses, a rigid flatfoot can develop.
There are warnings that it might happen
Acquired flatfoot is common with runners, and your body will show signs if you are at risk of developing it. Be aware of any nagging pains or swelling around the foot and ankle when you’re on the move (writers at Runner’s World describe it as feeling like a misplaced toothache). While aches and pains can be related to a host of problems, if acquired flatfoot is impending, the symptoms might become significantly worse during physical activities, such as walking or running.
It can lead to something worse
After the posterior tibial tendon has been damaged, it can’t continue to provide support to the arch of the foot. Left untreated, it can only get worse, so coming in for an intervention is essential to proper healing. If you catch it early, non-invasive treatments like anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, and bracing/orthotics can help prevent the need for surgery.
There are a variety of surgical options
In the event that your case is severe or if nonsurgical treatments don’t provide the relief you need, reconstructive surgery might be the best option. In this situation, I’ll do a comprehensive evaluation to determine the extent of your damage and form a care plan with your needs in mind. Gastrocnemius recession (to lengthen your muscle), tendon transfer (to reconstruct your lost arch), tenosynovectomy (to clean up tendon tissue), osteotomy (to cut and restructure the bones in your foot), and fusion (to help improve the alignment of your foot) are all possible options.
You can eventually gain complete recovery
Developing acquired flatfoot is not fun, but it’s also not the end of the world. With proper surgery and post-procedure care, you’ll be well on your way to getting back into your normal routine. Have more questions about the condition? Call our New Jersey foot and ankle surgeon to discuss flatfoot and treatment options.