Having noticeably flat feet raises alarm bells for many people as flat feet are often linked to foot pain and lower limb problems in podiatry. While this is true for some people, we’re pleased to say that others with flat feet can go through their lives without ever experiencing any pain or other problems with their feet.
Here at Masterton Foot Clinic, when it comes to flat feet, we tend to employ the rule of “if it’s not broken, let’s not go fixing it” – simply meaning that if your body is managing your flat feet well on its own, then this is great, and medical treatments usually aren’t justified.
Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule – like when you’re undertaking high-impact sports that are constantly straining the arch, and so you want to prevent problems that you may be more vulnerable to due to your flat feet, like plantar fasciitis heel pain.
When patients come to us wondering if they should get their flat feet treated and what can be done, our podiatrists always listen to the concerns, ask the right questions to understand the impact being placed on the feet in your daily life and sports, conduct an assessment to understand what’s happening with the biomechanics of your feet, your gait, strength, mobility, range of motion – and much more. Then we discuss the options available to you, including our professional recommendations – even if that is no treatment from us, but a good pair of running shoes instead.
If your flat feet are accompanied by pains, end-of-day aches or other problems like poor balance or regular tripping or being unable to keep up with your peers when running due to muscle fatigue, then it is highly likely that we will recommend treatment.
As flat feet are known to cause or be contributing factors to various foot and leg problems, treating the cause can help relieve your painful symptoms and prevent the pain or injury from recurring in the future. Here, we will create a treatment plan for the pain or problem you’re experiencing with your flat feet being managed as a causal factor, while also managing your other symptoms.
No, flat feet on their own are not bad. The only ‘bad’ thing is when you’re getting pain or other symptoms, and your flat feet have helped cause this problem.
Think of it this way: flat feet roll further towards the ground than ‘normal’ arched feet. This means that the muscles, ligaments and tendons involved with rolling your feet down and then lifting them up, work harder for longer. Working harder 10,000 times per day, every day, makes you more likely to overuse and damage one of these structures, hence developing foot pain.
No, don’t worry – you almost certainly haven’t ‘caused’ your flat feet. For most people, their flat feet are linked to characteristics like the shape and structure of their bones, the flexibility of their ligaments and tissues, and other similar factors that their DNA determines. These characteristics may be inherited, or they may not – flat feet can but don’t always run in families.
Other causes include injuries to the feet or ankles like posterior tibial tendon dysfunction, medical conditions or diseases like Charcot foot or arthritis that change the structure of the feet, having conditions that affect the flexibility or strength of the muscles and ligaments supporting the arch, like Ehlers Danlos syndrome and more.
If you have flat feet as an adult, arches aren’t something you can usually just ‘develop’, as it is a natural process in early childhood. We all start with large fat pads on our feet in infancy (which gives them a flat-footed appearance). As our muscles grow stronger and become defined, our arches develop – along with our gait, balance and coordination. This usually occurs by the age of seven or so, though it varies from person to person.
Orthotics are a fantastic and effective way of keeping flat feet supported and help treat foot pains and problems. However, they will not change the shape of your arch, just like wearing glasses doesn’t improve your vision after you take your glasses off.
Not necessarily, though it very well could be. We don’t recommend assuming that flat feet are the sole cause of your foot pain, as it may lead you to make an incorrect assumption about what the problem is, and start caring for your feet in a way that isn’t effective, wasting your time and money in the process.
While it’s possible to have pains and injuries that are unrelated to your flat feet, or having your flat feet only play a small role and something else play a larger role, the only way to tell is by seeing your podiatrist so they can diagnose what the problem is and uncover the cause.
While their flat feet are not causing any problems like regular tripping, being unable to keep up with their friends at school or pain, they don’t necessarily need any ‘help’. It is also difficult to predict whether your child will develop foot pain due to their flat feet in the future. The best thing you can do is to keep an eye on your child’s foot health. Pick up on any limping you notice and encourage them to let you know if something feels sore or not quite right. When this happens, get them to a podiatrist ASAP – before the problem worsens and causes damage.
You can help keep their feet supported by having them in good shoes, especially during physical activities, as well as school shoes because of the large amount of time they will spend in these during their childhood.
Does having flat feet mean I’m going to get foot pain?
Having flat feet does not guarantee that you will get foot pain, and many people with flat feet – particularly if they have hypermobile joints – will go many decades without any foot pain. However, having a flat foot posture does significantly increase your likelihood of developing a range of foot problems simply because this posture can place more stress on the muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints through your feet. When paired with other factors like an increase in exercise intensity or duration, or with a poor choice of footwear, you may have a significant risk of foot pain.
Can I fix my flat feet and develop arches?
If you have a naturally flat foot posture then this cannot be ‘fixed’ so that you develop arches. For those with flat feet but no foot pain, the foot posture may not need to be “fixed” at all. Where flat feet are causing pain or problems, we can use treatments and devices like orthotics to keep your feet supported and create an arch while you’re wearing them.
Which shoes should I be wearing for flat feet?
Most people with flat feet can benefit from sneakers with some in-built arch support, which is typically marketed as ‘pronation control’. As the degree of flat-footedness can vary from person to person, if you want to get specific recommendations for the best styles that are right for your unique feet, we can let you know after your assessment with us.