The inside bottom of most people’s feet typically has an arched shape, created by the bones of the foot, and forming a shock-absorbing structure to smooth out the impact of walking or running. When you have flat feet, the inner foot may show little or no arch at all. The entire sole of the foot may touch the ground, or the arch may not curve very high.
On their own, flat feet may not create problems or pain, and may not require treatment. However, the platform your feet create could undermine support for your ankles, knees, and hips. In some cases, the foot itself may experience pain and swelling in the arch or ankle area, often occurring or increasing with activity.
It’s normal for children to be born with flat feet, since the arches of the foot develop over time. Even those infants with the flattest feet may grow out of the condition through childhood. There are cases where an arch never forms, and this is a relatively common variation of foot types and not necessarily a cause for concern.
Another type of flat foot condition that occurs in childhood is called flexible flat foot. When a child sits or stands on their toes, a foot arch is visible, but when standing normally, the arch disappears. Flexible flat feet don’t typically cause any discomfort and the condition usually disappears as the feet develop through childhood.
Arches can fall with time, wear and tear, as a normal result of aging. The tendon that supports the arch along the inside of the foot may get weaker, resulting in low or no arching. This may be aggravated by a foot or ankle injury, rheumatoid arthritis, obesity, or diabetes.
If flat feet aren’t causing pain or alignment problems, then no treatment may be needed. When there is associated pain or when low arches contribute to problems elsewhere, such as knock knees, then some intervention may be helpful.
Treatment typically takes the form of either supportive footwear or corrective devices called orthotics. Arch supports available over-the-counter may be sufficient, or Dr. Genkin may recommend custom orthotics.
When flat feet are accompanied by shortened Achilles tendons, stretching exercises to lengthen the tendon may prove helpful.
If you’re a runner, flat feet may cause some other overuse injuries that benefit from physical therapy.
Surgery is not done to correct flat feet.
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