Flat Feet: Characteristics and Treatment

You can treat flat feet if they're painful. One of the most common measures for correcting them is to wear custom insoles.
Flat Feet: Characteristics and Treatment

Last update: 18 December, 2019

A person has flat feet when their entire soles are in contact with the ground while they’re standing. This is because their feet have fallen arches. This is a very frequent condition. Estimates indicate that 20% of the world’s population has it. It doesn’t usually cause pain and can develop both during childhood and over the subsequent years.

However, it can lead to poor leg alignment and this causes problems both in the ankles and in the knees. So, in today’s article, we’ll explain why they happen and how to treat them.

The causes of flat feet

It’s normal to have them in childhood since the arch of the foot is still forming during this stage. But, the arch never develops in some people and this is neither bad nor problematic. Flat feet can also form over the years. However, in this case, it usually affects only one foot. Also, it can happen due to aging, excessive use, injuries, and illness. Any of these situations lead to tendon damage and these are what “supports” the arch.

Certain factors increase the risk of having flat feet. Besides aging and injuries, which we already mentioned, they could also be due to obesity, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis. In fact, a study carried out at the University of Chile states that:

“Nutritional status has to do with increases in the prevalence of flat feet in children. Obesity has been linked to the morphological alteration of the foot in children from 6 to 10 years of age.”

Thus, it’s important to take care of your diet and especially your children’s diet. This is because obesity can impair the development of their muscles and skeleton.

What are the symptoms?

Most people with flat feet have no symptoms. However, some do feel pain in the inner leg. When the condition leads to a bad alignment, then pain can affect the ankles or the knees. Flat feet are associated with inward knees. This pathology is called genu valgum or “knock-knee.” It’s a skeletal and aesthetic problem you can even see with the naked eye.

Also, other symptoms that can lead to this condition are fatigue and leg heaviness. It may be difficult for people with flat feet to walk. In some cases, they may also have back problems.

Treatments for flat feet

Many treatments can improve this condition if it’s causing pain.

  • Stretching exercises: These are ideal for cases in which the Achilles tendon is shorter than normal.
  • Footwear with structural support: This helps relieve pain and are much more comfortable than shoes that have little to no support.
  • Orthopedic devices: These are supports for the arch. There are non-prescription options out there but can also have them custom made. Custom insoles perfectly fit the contour of your foot and reduce your symptoms.
  • The ideal approach for children is to try to correct their flat feet with a set of exercises. However, they can begin to use custom soles from the age of 4. They’ll improve their foot alignment.
  • Surgery is also a last-resort option. However, this is usually reserved for the most complicated cases. It’s usually for those people who also have a tendon rupture, for example.

Also, physiotherapy can be effective in the case of athletes with this condition. This is because many cases of flat feet are due to overload from injuries when running or when overcompensating while exercising. Physiotherapists and trainers can prevent this problem by helping these athletes improve their technique.

You may be interested: 5 Exercises to Treat Heel Spurs


Having flat feet is something that usually doesn’t cause discomfort or major problems. However, various forms of treatment can help in cases where they do occur. What’s important is to consult a doctor with any questions.

Also, it’s always a good idea to try to lose weight if you’re overweight. You can treat your pain with medication, but it’s much better to do stretches and other forms of physical therapy.

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