Flatfeet is a common condition, also known as flatfoot, in which the arches on the inside of the feet flatten when pressure is put on them. When people with flatfeet stand up, the feet point outward, and the entire soles of the feet fall and touch the floor. Flatfeet can occur when the arches don’t develop during childhood. It can also develop later in life after an injury or from the simple wear-and-tear stresses of age.
Flatfeet is usually painless. However, if flatfeet is causing you pain and limiting what you want to do, then an evaluation from a specialist may be warranted.
Flatfeet is not unusual in infants and toddlers, because the foot’s arch hasn’t yet developed. Most people’s arches develop throughout childhood, but some people never develop arches. People without arches may or may not have problems.Some children have flexible flatfeet, often called flexible flatfoot, in which the arch is visible when the child is sitting or standing on tiptoes but disappears when the child stands. Most children outgrow flexible flatfeet without problems. People without flatfeet can also develop the condition. Arches can collapse abruptly after an injury. Or the collapse can happen over years of wear and tear. Over time, the tendon that runs along the inside of the ankle and helps support the arch can get weakened or tear. As the severity increases, arthritis may develop in the foot.
Most people have no symptoms associated with flatfeet. But some people with flatfeet experience foot pain, particularly in the heel or arch area. Pain may worsen with activity. Swelling may occur along the inside of the ankle.
Factors that can increase the risk of flatfeet include:
- Injury to the foot or ankle
- Rheumatoid arthritis
For painful flatfeet, a health care provider might suggest:
Arch supports (orthotic devices): Arch supports can help relieve the pain caused by flatfeet. Sometimes custom-designed arch supports that are molded to the contours of the feet are recommended. Arch supports won’t cure flatfeet, but they often reduce symptoms.
Stretching exercises: Some people with flatfeet also have a shortened Achilles tendon. Exercises to stretch this tendon may help.
Physical therapy: Flatfeet may contribute to overuse injuries in some runners. A physical therapist can provide exercises to strengthen the muscles and tendons in the feet and guidance to improve gait.