If you have flat feet, most or all of the bottom of your foot will make contact with the ground when you stand. Though flat feet do not always cause symptoms, they can sometimes result in foot pain and problems in the knees and ankles because of improper alignment of the legs.
For those who experience pain due to flat feet, lifestyle changes and treatment with a podiatrist can help to manage and prevent symptoms.
What Causes Flat Feet?
In a normal adult foot, tendons tighten to form a raised section in the middle called an arch. These arches typically develop during childhood, but some people do not develop them at all. The arches can also “fall” over time as the tendons that support the arch grow weaker.
Flat feet can be caused by a variety of different factors like:
- Injury, stretching or inflammation of tendons
- Bone dislocation or fracture
- Inborn abnormality
- Nerve problems
We are all more susceptible to fallen arches as we age. You will also be at a higher risk of flat feet if you are obese, pregnant or suffer from a condition like diabetes or arthritis.
What are the Symptoms of Flat Feet?
Often, flat feet cause no symptoms. If arches never develop, this can simply be a natural variation in foot type and may mean that flat feet will not cause problems.
However, some people with flat feet experience symptoms like:
- Aches and pains in the feet, particularly in the heels or arches
- Swelling in the bottom of the foot
- Feet that tire easily
- Pain in the legs and back
- Difficulty with foot movements like standing on your toes
Treatment for Flat Feet
A visual examination by a foot doctor can help you determine if you have flat feet. You may also be asked to stand on your toes. If an arch forms as you do so, this means you have flexible flat feet, and you may not require any additional testing or treatment.
If you have rigid flat feet, which do not form an arch while you stand on your toes, or if you’ve been experiencing pain due to flat feet, further tests may be needed. Your doctor may ask about injuries and medical conditions that could be connected to flat feet or recommend an X-ray or MRI.
Your doctor may also recommend strategies to reduce pain like:
- Physical therapy
- The use of orthotics, casts or braces
- Anti-inflammatory pain medications
Severe cases of flat feet may necessitate surgery. During surgery for flat feet, the tendons can be lengthened and balanced and the bones can be realigned and reshaped to prevent further problems.
Lifestyle Changes for Flat Feet
In addition to medical treatment, there are a number of lifestyle changes you can make to minimize the pain of flat feet, including:
- Maintaining a healthy body weight
- Resting and icing the feet when in pain
- Avoiding high-impact sports and activities that strain the feet
Flat feet can make life uncomfortable. If flat feet are causing you pain or interfering with your lifestyle, seeking help and making changes in your habits can help you reduce symptoms.