The term flat feet or flatfeet refers to a condition that occurs when the arches of the feet are not curved, but instead are flat, allowing the entire foot to touch the floor when standing up. Flat feet sometimes develop in childhood when the arch portion of the foot does not curve as it does in a normal foot. Other times, they can develop as a result the aging process, after an injury, or as a result of being significantly overweight or obese. Diabetes can also increase the chances of developing flat feet.
People with flat feet often have changes in the way they walk or stand that can cause painful symptoms in the heels, soles and sides of the feet, as well as the ankles, knees, and even the back. In other people, having flat feet may cause no symptoms, or symptoms may occur only after a prolonged period of activity.
Several approaches may be used to treat flat feet that cause painful symptoms, including:
custom orthotics designed to provide support to the arch and reduce painful symptoms
gentle stretching exercises to improve strength and flexibility in the tendons that support the arch and heel
shoes with ample arch support and avoiding shoes like sandals, slippers and ballet flats or tennis shoes that do not provide support for the arch
therapy to improve gait mechanics to reduce the risk of overuse injuries, especially in athletes
No treatment is necessary if the condition is not associated with symptoms. In the rare cases when arch problems are related to a serious injury such as a torn tendon, surgery may be recommended to repair the tendon and restore proper support to the arch.