Flat Feet (Fallen ARches)

Photo diagram of pain areas on lower body joints

What areas of my body do I feel pain?

To start finding out, take a closer look at where you feel pain in your feet and lower body.

A Heel

B Arch & Midfoot

C Ankles & Knees

D Hips & Lower Back

WHAT Are Flat Feet?

Drawn image diagram of a collapsed arch on a foot causing a flat foot

If you have pain or discomfort in your feet or ankle joints, you might have flat feet. Keep reading to find out the difference between a normal foot and a flat foot.

A normal arch creates an upward curve in the middle of your foot. Tendons and ligaments in your foot and lower leg help form the arch and stabilize it. Because your feet help support your entire body, having strong arches is important to your body’s health. When those tendons and ligaments weaken, your arch collapses.

Flat feet, also known as acquired flat foot disorder, result from your collapsed arch. When standing, the sole of your foot should not touch the ground completely. However, a fallen arch causes your foot to roll inwards and your entire sole comes close to touching the ground. Because your feet are the foundation for your body, flat feet can cause problems throughout your skeletal structure and can even bring your joints out of alignment.

With a fallen arch, your tendons and ligaments weaken and cause intense pain throughout your feet, ankles, and lower leg muscles, especially in the region of your arch and heel. Flat feet can also cause a weakened posture and discomfort through your hips and lower back.

What causes Flat Feet?

Although usually uncommon, flat feet can develop as an abnormality in childhood where your foot’s arch never forms. This abnormality can also be present at birth and is often hereditary.

Flat feet usually develops as an adult because of excessive foot stress. Failing to treat a foot injury (such as an ankle sprain) without proper healing time and arch support can lead to flat feet. Some examples of excessive foot stress include:

  • Weakened muscles in the foot, ankles, and lower leg from aging or weight gain.
  • Standing or walking for longer periods of time, especially in heels or dress shoes.
  • Wearing uncomfortable shoes without proper arch support.
  • Foot injuries, such as ankle sprains or broken bones in your feet.

To find out more about flat feet, let's first see if you have any symptoms.

How Do I Know If I Have Flat Feet?TAKE THIS SELF-ASSESSMENT
Self- Assessment
Quiz

To start finding out, take a closer look at where you feel pain in your feet and lower body joints.

  • Do you feel discomfort / pain in your feet and inside of your ankles?
  • Do you feel uncomfortable walking or standing, especially for long periods of time?
  • Does your foot turn outward at your ankle?
  • Is your posture strained, especially in your hips and lower back?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you show some key symptoms of having flat feet.TAKE THE NEXT QUICK ASSESSMENT.

Self- Assessment
Quiz

Do this simple test on yourself:

  • Get your feet wet.
  • Stand normally on a flat surface where you can see the imprint of your feet, such as a sidewalk.
  • Step away from your imprints and look at the wet marks.

If you have a normal arch, you will see an imprint with the inside curve of your foot missing. If you have flat feet, your imprint shows almost the entire bottom of your feet.

Are there any serious concerns with
Flat Feet?
Photo of a Podiatrist analyzing foot X-ray to see the concerns of flat feet

Once you have flat feet, this condition will not go away on its own. Without treatment, your fallen arches begin to put strain and pressure on your ankles and knees. The tendons and ligaments connecting from your feet to your knees and hips become stressed, leading to discomfort in your lower body joints.

Over time, flat feet lead to more serious problems in your body’s alignment. Flat feet cause the angle of your joints in your hips, knees, and ankles to change slightly, causing excess strain on those joints.

If you have continuous strain on the ligaments and tendons that support your ankle and the arch of your foot, it may cause the bones to collapse, leading to:

  • Heel spurs, or severe heel pain when first standing or walking after a period of rest.
  • Ankle and knee pain from misaligned joints.
  • Lower back and hip pain from your ability to absorb shock properly.
  • Arthritis, which may develop over time.

Keep reading for recommendations on treatment and relief from the experts at FootSmart, The Podiatry Institute, and the Running Injury Clinic.

How Do I Treat and Prevent Flat Feet?

Since surgery affects your feet for a long period of time, it's best to try some non-surgical treatments first.

You can treat flat feet by:
  1. Wearing comfortable and supportive shoes with insoles that fully support the arch and help stabilize the heel. Look for shoes that are comfortable for both work and sporting activities. Insoles add additional support to your shoes and comfort the arch of your foot.
  2. Wearing orthotics that help distribute and minimize pressure in the foot by providing additional arch support. Orthotics also aid in realigning your foot's ankle joints and bones. Orthotics are custom designed to fit your feet and give you extra support while walking, standing, and running.
  3. Using arch inserts and wraps that add extra support to your feet, especially if your shoes lack existing arch support. Inserts and wraps help alleviate the pain of flat feet and allow you to last longer on your feet during the day.

If non-surgical treatments are not working for you, talk to a podiatrist or orthopedic doctor. Surgery can help stabilize your foot and ankle bones and aid with foot support