Having a cavus foot basically means you are a person with very high arches. Rather than putting pressure on the whole of the foot, the pressure of standing and walking is placed on the ball of the foot and the heel of the foot, leading to instability and pain when standing and walking. You can have high arches on just one foot or on both feet.
Causes of a Cavus Foot
While some people can be born with a cavus foot, others will develop it over time. Neurological diseases can cause a cavus foot, including Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, stroke or polio. Anything that causes spasticity of the muscles of the leg can cause spasm of the tendons and ligaments that create a cavus foot.
Symptoms of a Cavus Foot
Much of the diagnosis of cavus foot can be done on a physical examination. The podiatrist will examine the foot while you are sitting and, if you can stand, he or she will examine your foot while you are standing to see of the high arch settles down. In a true cavus foot, the arch will be high even while you are standing. Other things often seen besides the high arch are the following:
- Extreme calluses on the heel of the foot, the ball or along the sides of the foot.
- Hammertoes, which are gnarled toes that look like claws from having too much pressure put on them.
- Increased pain when trying to stand or walk on the foot.
- A tilting of the foot inward, which predisposes you to sustaining an ankle sprain.
- Foot drop, which is a weakness of the muscles of the foot or ankle that causes you to drag the foot behind you when you take a step. This is usually when the cavus foot is from a neurological problem.
Diagnosis of a Cavus Foot
It is important to correctly diagnose cavus foot because the treatment depends on the cause of the condition. If the high arch is because a person has a neurological problem, it usually means the condition is going to get worse. If you were born with a cavus foot, it won’t likely change over time and no treatment may be necessary.
The podiatrist will look at your family history of foot problems and will examine both feet to see how high the arches are and will look for the pattern of wear on the foot (where the calluses and hammertoes are). They will assess the strength of the muscles of the foot and see how your coordination and walking look like. The podiatrist may look at the entire leg to see if there are any other abnormalities and may look at your shoes to see how you’ve worn them down.
Another part of the evaluation may be to take x-rays to see the position of the bones of the foot. The podiatrist may also ask that you see a neurologist so your neurological status can be assessed.
Treatment of Cavus Foot
Cavus foot can be treated with or without surgery. If no surgery is required, the podiatrist will have several different options:
- Bracing the foot. This can help in foot drop and in stabilizing the ankle and foot.
- Special shoes. The podiatrist may recommend that you wear high tops that are a better support for the ankle or shoes that have wider heels to make it easier to walk without falling or twisting and ankle.
- Orthotics. The podiatrist may recommend or make custom fit orthotic devices in order to cushion the foot and make it more stable when you are walking.
Surgery is sometimes done when other treatments fail and when pain relief and stability is a priority. The type of surgery done depends on what is wrong with the foot. If you are suffering from a neurological disorder, multiple surgeries might be required because the condition is progressive and will change over time.