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What Is a Collapsed Arch?

Whether you’re logging miles on the running trail or walking to your office downtown, you rely on your feet to get you from point A to point B. From blisters to ankle sprains, there are many reasons why your feet might hurt, including collapsed arches.

As a licensed and certified chiropractic sports physician and sports injury specialist Tony Zemlinsky, DC — better known as Dr. Z — is no stranger to collapsed arches. 

Below, Dr. Z explains what collapsed arches are and how they’re treated.

What is a collapsed arch?

You might discuss your arch (in terms of arch support) when you purchase shoes, but what exactly is your arch? The purpose of your arch (between the heel and ball of your foot) is to help absorb the shock of walking, facilitate movement, and provide additional balance and stability. Your arch is supported by a network of muscles, tendons, and ligaments, but your posterior tibial tendon is the main tendon that supports your arch. 

As the name suggests, a collapsed arch means the arch has collapsed and your foot is flat (or almost entirely flat.) Years of physical activity 一 walking, running, or even just prolonged standing 一 can weaken your posterior tibial tendon. 

Overloading this tendon through injury or repetitive strain can cause inflammation, called tendonitis, and even tearing. Once your posterior tibial tendon is damaged, your arch loses its support system and can flatten out, which results in fallen arches.

Do collapsed arches hurt?

Not necessarily. Many people with flat feet might not even realize they have flat feet. However, collapsed arches can (and do) cause problems for many people. 

Symptoms of collapsed arches include:

Research shows that collapsed arches can also affect your gait — the way you walk. Collapsed arches can impact your stride, step time, and comfort level. If you have to adjust the way you walk due to pain, you may also notice knee, hip, lower back pain. The same study highlights that orthotics can improve gait, stride, and step time as well as reduce pain.

Five risk factors for collapsed arches

Not everyone arrives at the diagnosis of collapse arches the same way. Below are just a few factors that contribute to the development of collapsed arches:

  1. Congenital flat feet (meaning you’re born with them)
  2. Damage to your posterior tibial tendon (the tendon that attaches your calf muscles to the bones on the inside of your foot) while playing sports
  3. Being overweight
  4. Having diabetes
  5. Having high blood pressure 

Before you begin with any treatment, the first step is to confirm that your foot pain is related to a collapsed arch. 

Here at Active Rehab Clinics, we use the Optojump gait analysis tool and Physimax functional movement assessments to determine underlying foot conditions. In addition to these assessments, we might suggest imaging tests, such as X-rays or an MRI, to provide additional insight into your bones, muscles, and connective tissue.

Treating collapsed arches 

Treatment alleviates your discomfort and improves your gait. Dr. Z treats collapsed arches with a combination of the following:

Both functional medicine and physical therapy provide customized exercises and stretches needed to restore the functionality of your feet and ankles. 

In addition to physical therapy, we may also recommend Plantiga AI orthotics. These orthotics are customized to you based on the data obtained from the scans and the input from artificial intelligence (AI). Orthotics support your arch and help improve your gait. This innovative wearable technology monitors your injury progression and tracks performance output.

If you suspect you have collapsed arches, we can provide the customized care you need. To learn more about physical therapy, functional medicine, and Plantiga AI orthotics for the treatment of collapsed arches, reach out to our team at either of our two offices in Park Ridge, or Chicago, Illinois. Call us or use the online scheduling tool.

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