The majority of people will experience a flattening of the arch
of the feet as we age. This is a natural part of
the aging process for most, as the years of abuse we put on our feet causes weakening of the soft tissue structures that support the arch of the foot and gravity dictates that the feet tend to
flatten out. When flattening of one of the feet occurs rapidly over a relatively short period of time this may signal a more serious problem.
The most common cause of acquired adult flatfoot is posterior tibial tendon dysfunction. What causes adult acquired flat foot? Fracture or dislocation. Tendon laceration. Tarsal Coalition. Arthritis.
Neuroarthropathy. Neurological weakness.
Symptoms shift around a bit, depending on what stage of PTTD you?re in. For instance, you?re likely to start off with tendonitis, or inflammation of the posterior tibial tendon. This will make the
area around the inside of your ankle and possibly into your arch swollen, reddened, warm to the touch, and painful. Inflammation may actually last throughout the stages of PTTD. The ankle will also
begin to roll towards the inside of the foot (pronate), your heel may tilt, and you may experience some pain in your leg (e.g. shin splints). As the condition progresses, the toes and foot begin to
turn outward, so that when you look at your foot from the back (or have a friend look for you, because-hey-that can be kind of a difficult
maneuver to pull off) more toes than usual will be visible on the outside (i.e. the side with the pinky toe). At this stage, the foot?s still going to be flexible, although it will likely have
flattened somewhat due to the lack of support from the posterior tibial tendon. You may also find it difficult to stand on your toes. Finally, you may reach a stage in which your feet are inflexibly
flat. At this point, you may experience pain below your ankle on the outside of your foot, and you might even develop arthritis in the ankle.
Starting from the knee down, check for any bowing of the tibia. A tibial varum will cause increased medial stress on the foot and ankle. This is essential to consider in surgical planning. Check the
gastrocnemius muscle and Achilles complex via a straight and bent knee check for equinus. If the range of motion improves to at least neutral with bent knee testing of the Achilles complex, one may
consider a gastrocnemius recession. If the Achilles complex is still tight with bent knee testing, an Achilles lengthening may be necessary. Check the posterior tibial muscle along its entire course.
Palpate the muscle and observe the tendon for strength with a plantarflexion and inversion stress test. Check the flexor muscles for strength in order to see if an adequate transfer tendon is
available. Check the anterior tibial tendon for size and strength.
Non surgical Treatment
Initial treatment consists of supporting the medial longitudinal arch (running the length of the foot) to relieve strain on the medial soft tissues. The most effective way to relieve pain on the
tendon is to use a boot or brace, and once tenderness and pain has resolved, an orthotic device. A boot, brace, or orthotic has not been shown to correct or even prevent the progression of deformity.
Orthotics can alleviate symptoms and may slow the progression of deformity, particularly if mild. The deformity may progress despite orthotics.
For those patients with PTTD that have severe deformity or have not improved with conservative treatments, surgery may be necessary to return them to daily activity. Surgery for PTTD may include
repair of the diseased tendon and possible tendon transfer to a nearby healthy tendon, surgery on the surrounding bones or joints to prevent biomechanical abnormalities that may be a contributing
factor or both.