A common and usually painless condition, flatfeet occurs when the arches of the feet flatten upon standing, allowing the entire soles to touch the floor.
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. If you aren't having pain, no treatment is necessary. However, if flatfeet is causing you pain and limiting what you want to do, then an evaluation from a specialist may be warranted.
In typical feet, the arch leaves a footprint similar to the one depicted on the left, while flatfeet typically produce a footprint such as the one pictured on the right.
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.
Talk to your health care provider if you or your child has foot pain, particularly if it is limiting what you want to do.
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.
Factors that can increase the risk of flatfeet include:
To view the mechanics of your feet, a health care provider will observe your feet from the front and back and ask you to stand on your toes. The provider will test strength in the ankles and locate the main area of your pain. The wear pattern on your shoes also may reveal information about your feet.
Imaging tests that can be helpful in diagnosing the cause of foot pain may include:
No treatment is necessary for flatfeet if it doesn't cause pain.
For painful flatfeet, a health care provider might suggest:
Surgery isn't done solely to correct flatfeet. Surgery may be an option when patients have pain that still limits their activities after they have tried nonsurgical treatments. Surgery can repair the bone and tendon problems that are causing the pain.
If flatfeet causes you minor pain, you might want to try:
If your feet cause you significant pain, your health care provider may refer you to a doctor specializing in foot disorders, such as an orthopedic surgeon or a podiatrist.
Wear your everyday shoes to your appointment so your health care provider can look at the wear patterns on the soles. Before the appointment, you might want to write answers to the following questions:
Your health care provider may ask some of the following questions: