This condition is characterized by a progressive flattening or falling of the arch. It is often referred to as posterior tibial tendon dysfunction (PTTD) and is becoming a more commonly recognized
foot problem. Since the condition develops over time, it is typically diagnosed in adulthood. It usually only develops in one foot although it can affect both. Since it is progressive, it is common
for symptoms to worsen, especially when it is not treated early. The posterior tibial tendon attaches to the bones on the inside of your foot and is vital to the support structure within the foot.
With PTTD, changes in the tendon impair its ability to function normally. The result is less support for the arch, which in turn causes it to fall or flatten. A flattening arch can cause the heel to
shift out of alignment, the forefoot to rotate outward, the heel cord to tighten, and possible deformity of the foot. Common symptoms include pain along the inside of the ankle, swelling, an inward
rolling of the ankle, pain that is worse with activity, and joint pain
as arthritis sets in.
Adult flatfoot typically occurs very gradually. If often develops in an obese person who already has somewhat flat feet. As the person ages, the tendons and ligaments that support the foot begin to
lose their strength and elasticity.
Pain along the inside of the foot and ankle, where the tendon lies. This may or may not be associated with swelling in the area. Pain that is worse with activity. High-intensity or high-impact
activities, such as running, can be very difficult. Some patients can have trouble walking or standing for a long time. Pain on the outside of the ankle. When the foot collapses, the heel bone may
shift to a new position outwards. This can put pressure on the outside ankle bone. The same type of pain is found in arthritis in the back of the foot. Asymmetrical collapsing of the medial arch on
the affected side.
First, both feet should be examined with the patient standing and the entire lower extremity visible. The foot should be inspected from above as well as from behind the patient, as valgus angulation
of the hindfoot is best appreciated when the foot is viewed from behind. Johnson described the so-called more-toes sign: with more advanced deformity and abduction of the forefoot, more of the
lateral toes become visible when the foot is viewed from behind. The single-limb heel-rise test is an excellent determinant of the function of the posterior tibial tendon. The patient is asked to
attempt to rise onto the ball of one foot while the other foot is suspended off the floor. Under normal circumstances, the posterior tibial muscle, which inverts and stabilizes the hindfoot, is
activated as the patient begins to rise onto the forefoot. The gastrocnemius-soleus muscle group then elevates the calcaneus, and the heel-rise is accomplished. With dysfunction of the posterior
tibial tendon, however, inversion of the heel is weak, and either the heel remains in valgus or the patient is unable to rise onto the forefoot. If the patient can do a single-limb heel-rise, the
limb may be stressed further by asking the patient to perform this maneuver repetitively.
Non surgical Treatment
Orthotic or anklebrace, Over-the-counter or custom shoe inserts to position the foot and relieve pain are the most common non-surgical treatment option. Custom orthotics are often suggested if the
shape change of the foot is more severe. An ankle brace (either over-the-counter or custom made) is another option that will help to ease tendon tension and pain. Boot immobilization. A walking boot
supports the tendon and allows it to heal. Activity modifications. Depending on what we find, we may recommend limiting high-impact activities, such as running, jumping or court sports, or switching
out high-impact activities for low-impact options for a period of time. Ice and anti-inflammatory medications. These may be given as needed to decrease your symptoms.
In cases where cast immobilization, orthoses and shoe therapy have failed, surgery is the next alternative. The goal of surgery and non-surgical treatment is to eliminate pain, stop progression of
the deformity and improve mobility of the patient. Opinions vary as to the best surgical treatment for adult acquired flatfoot. Procedures commonly used to correct the condition include tendon
debridement, tendon transfers, osteotomies (cutting and repositioning of bone) and joint fusions. (See surgical correction of adult acquired flatfoot). Patients with adult acquired flatfoot are
advised to discuss thoroughly the benefits vs. risks of all surgical options. Most procedures have long-term recovery mandating that the correct procedure be utilized to give the best long-term
benefit. Most flatfoot surgical procedures require six to twelve weeks of cast immobilization. Joint fusion procedures require eight weeks of non-weightbearing on the operated foot - meaning you will
be on crutches for two months. The bottom line is, Make sure all of your non-surgical options have been covered before considering surgery. Your primary goals with any treatment are to eliminate pain
and improve mobility. In many cases, with the properly designed foot orthosis or ankle brace, these goals can be achieved without surgical intervention.