The COVID-19 pandemic has been associated with a number of unfortunate ills, including respiratory problems, heart problems, and even loss of taste and smell—but could it also be linked to foot problems? It just might. For the past couple of years, podiatrists have been noticing an increase in cases of so-called "Fred Flintstone" feet, or more simply, flat feet. And the trend appears to coincide with the coronavirus pandemic.
The problem itself is nothing new. In fact, about 1 in 4 Americans has flat feet—also known as Flintstone feet, Fallen Arches, or Pes Planus in medical terms. Whatever you call it, it means that the entire sole of the foot (not just the heel and ball) is flat against the ground. But why would the condition suddenly be more prevalent in the age of COVID?
What Causes Fred Flintstone Feet?
Flat feet are commonly the result of genetic factors, advanced age, and weight. However, lifestyle factors can also speed up and exacerbate this painful condition.
The pandemic has resulted in more people working from home—and staying home in general. As a result, people are spending more time barefoot and in flip-flops. People are putting more strain on their feet by walking around without proper arch support, and their feet are suffering as a result. Over time, this unprotected strolling causes the ligaments to stretch, and then the arches begin to collapse.
The good news is that this issue is preventable. For starters, invest in a good pair of house shoes with built-in arch support. If you don’t usually allow shoes in the house, you can make sure that these shoes are dedicated exclusively to indoor use—so you never have to worry about tracking dirt on the carpets.
If you already have signs of flat feet, you can invest in an insole that lifts the arches of your feet. This will help to engage and strengthen the core.
Why Is Your Arch Important?
The arches provide your feet with strength and balance. They support even weight distribution across the foot, and they provide flexibility and stability. When the feet are flat, the arches disappear. As a result, the rest of your body has to make up for it. This places extra stress not just on the feet but on the knees and back, resulting in a host of other painful issues.
The proper foot support is important for everybody, but it’s especially important if you spend a lot of time barefoot, if you engage in any kind of rigorous activity involving the feet, or if you’re already experiencing pain and inflammation in your feet, ankles, legs, or back.
If you do notice any pain or discomfort and you suspect that flat feet may be to blame, visit a podiatrist right away. They can get to the root of the problem and recommend a solution. If the pain is ignored, it could get worse. You may even put yourself at risk for other conditions like bunions, calluses, plantar fasciitis, hammertoes, and blisters. Athletes may even experience shin splints and stress fractures.
So don’t let yourself become a victim of Fred Flintstone feet. Wake up and put on those supportive shoes—yabba dabba doo!
Dr. Jeffrey S. Hurless
DPM, FACFAS Board Certified Foot & Ankle Surgeon/Podiatrist
Medical Director, HealthyFeetStore.com