Flat Foot

What are flat feet?

Flat feet illustration

Flat feet occur when a person has a very low or non-existent arch in the foot.

  • People with flat feet have a very low arch or no arch, meaning that one or both of their feet may be flat on the ground.
  • A human foot has 33 joints, which hold 26 different bones together. It also has over 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
  • The arches provide a spring to the step and help to distribute body weight across the feet and legs. The structure of the arches determines how a person walks. The arches need to be both sturdy and flexible to adapt to stress and a variety of surfaces.
  • When people have flat feet, their feet may roll to the inner side when they are standing and walking. This is known as overpronation, and it may also cause the feet to point outward.
  • Many people with flat feet have no symptoms, but others will experience a variety of symptoms that generally depend on the severity of the condition.

Symptoms

  • The most common symptom of flat feet is pain in the feet. This can occur as a result of strained muscles and connecting ligaments.
  • Abnormal stresses on the knee and hip may result in pain in these joints. These stresses are likely if the ankles turn inward.
  • Pain most commonly affects the following parts of the body:
  • inside ankle, alongside possible swelling
  • Arch of the foot
  • calf
  • knee
  • hip
  • lower back
  • lower legs
  • One or both feet may also feel stiff.

Causes

Common causes of flat feet include:

  • Genetic factors, as flat feet can pass from parents to children in the genes
  • Weak arches, meaning that the arch is visible when a person sits but the foot flattens onto the ground when they stand
  • Foot or ankle injury
  • Arthritis or rheumatoid arthritis
  • Damage, dysfunction, or rupture of the posterior tibial tendon
  • Nervous system or muscle diseases, such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, or spina bifida

Treatment

  • Some people with flat feet may automatically align their limbs in a way that prevents symptoms. People who are not experiencing symptoms do not usually require treatment.
  • If flat feet are causing pain, then supportive, well-fitted shoes can help. Extra-wide-fitting shoes can provide relief.
  • Fitted insoles and orthotics or custom-designed arch supports may relieve pressure on the arch and reduce pain if the feet roll too far inward. However, these products only treat the symptoms and do not provide long-lasting benefits.
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