(AAF) is the term used to describe the progressive deformity of the foot and ankle that, in its
later stages, results in collapsed and badly deformed feet. Although the condition has been described and written about since the 1980s, AAF is not a widely used acronym within the O&P
community-even though orthotists and pedorthists easily recognize the signs of the condition because they treat them on an almost daily basis. AAF is caused by a loss of the dynamic and static
support structures of the medial longitudinal arch, resulting in an incrementally worsening planovalgus deformity associated with posterior tibial (PT) tendinitis. Over the past 30 years, researchers
have attempted to understand and explain the gradual yet significant deterioration that can occur in foot structure, which ultimately leads to painful and debilitating conditions-a progression that
is currently classified into four stages. What begins as a predisposition to flatfoot can progress to a collapsed arch, and then to the more severe posterior tibial tendon dysfunction (PTTD). Left
untreated, the PT tendon can rupture, and the patient may then require a rigid AFO or an arthrodesis fixation surgery to stabilize the foot in order to remain capable of walking pain free.
Posterior tibial tendon dysfunction is the most common cause of acquired adult flatfoot. Sometimes this can be a result of specific trauma, but usually the tendon becomes injured from wear and tear
over time. This is more prevalent in individuals with an inherited flat foot but excessive weight, age, and level of activity are also contributing factors.
Pain and swelling around the inside aspect of the ankle initially. Later, the arch of the foot may fall (foot becomes flat), this change leads to walking to become difficult and painful, as well as
standing for long periods. As the flat foot becomes established, pain may progress to the outer part of the ankle. Eventually, arthritis may develop.
It is of great importance to have a full evaluation, by a foot and ankle specialist with expertise in addressing complex flatfoot deformities. No two flat feet are alike; therefore, "Universal"
treatment plans do not exist for the Adult Flatfoot. It is important to have a custom treatment plan that is tailored to your specific foot. That starts by first understanding all the intricacies of
your foot, through an extensive evaluation. X-rays of the foot and ankle are standard, and MRI may be used to better assess the quality of the PT Tendon.
Non surgical Treatment
Get treated early. There is no recommended home treatment. While in stage one of the deformity, rest, a cast, and anti-inflammatory therapy can help you find relief. This treatment is followed by
creating custom-molded foot orthoses and orthopedic footwear. These customized items are critical in maintaining the stability of the foot and ankle. Once the tendon has stretched and deformity is
visible, the chances of success for non-surgical treatment are significantly lower. In a small percentage of patients, total immobilization may arrest the progression of the deformity. A long-term
brace known as an ankle foot orthosis is required to keep the deformity from progressing. The Richie Brace, a type of ankle foot orthosis, shows significant success as a treatment for stage two
posterior tibial dysfunction. It is a sport-style brace connected to a custom corrected foot orthodic that fits into most lace-up footwear (including athletic shoes). It is also light weight and more
cosmetically appealing than traditionally prescribed ankle foot orthosis. The Arizona Brace, California Brace or Gauntlet Brace may also be recommended depending on your needs.
Types of surgery your orthopaedist may discuss with you include arthrodesis, or welding (fusing) one or more of the bones in the foot/ankle together. Osteotomy, or cutting and reshaping a bone to
correct alignment. Excision, or removing a bone or bone spur. Synovectomy, or cleaning the sheath covering a tendon. Tendon transfer, or using a piece of one tendon to lengthen or replace another.
Having flat feet is a serious matter. If you are experiencing foot pain and think it may be related to flat feet, talk to your orthopaedist.