Knee pain that is caused by the mechanics of the foot can often be overlooked. If you are having an injury treated, your practitioner may focus so heavily on that particular body part that they forget about the nearby structures that are having a direct impact on the injury.
At Performance Podiatry we have had a notable influx of foot-related knee pain that is exacerbated by activity. It is often improved by rest and returns again once the activity has been resumed. Unless the root cause of the knee pain (poor alignment of the foot, ankle, knee, hips etc.) is addressed, the pain will continue to occur. Once the knee pain has been occurring consistently for a long period of time, it can be difficult to treat.
It has been proven that flat feet and feet with high arches have been associated with frequent knee pain, cartilage damage and osteoarthritis in older adults. The foot plays a crucial role in absorbing shock from ground contact. From here it moulds the alignment and joint movement of the knee.
What happens to the knee when the foot hits the ground?
This can be dependent on a number of factors, such as whether the foot is flexible or rigid in nature, whether the arches are high or flat, and which part of the foot is hitting the ground (the heel, mid-foot or forefoot). We will be focussing on the impact of high or flat foot arches on knee pain in this blog.
Flat feet have impacts on the joint between the thigh bone and shin bone and the joint between the thigh bone and knee bone. The reason for this is that when the foot flattens, the leg rotates inwards and puts excessive strain on the knee joints. Over time, this overloading may cause cartilage wear and osteoarthritis.
Feet with high arches
High arched feet have an entirely different mode of causing pain at the knee. These feet are relatively rigid (not flexible) and do little to absorb shock by flattening out the foot arch. Because these feet hit the ground so hard the shock is transferred up the leg and into the knee excessively. Often people with this type of foot will experience pain on the outside of the knee.
What can I do about this?
The first thing to do is to have a foot and leg assessment performed by a podiatrist or other health professional. They will assess for things like alignment, joint flexibility, muscle strength and flexibility. At Performance Podiatry we consider daily footwear, running shoes and other sporting shoes and their suitability for your feet. We also consider gym training or running technique and how this is impacting on your knees.
If the feet are considered to be flat we may recommend a strengthening program to help re-align the feet or legs. We may also recommend orthotics to help support the feet while they are becoming stronger, or to provide feedback to the brain about where the foot should be positioned.
If your feet are less flexible and have higher arches, we may recommend a mixture of joint mobilisations, stretches, soft orthotics with shock-absorbing qualities and shoes appropriate for your foot type.
Remember, prevention is the best policy when it comes to our knees.