Flat feet is a common condition, it is estimated that approximately one quarter of the population has flat feet. Flat feet are normal in infants, but after approximately age 3 a normal arch should be visible. Not all flat feet are painful. But, if there is no pain, it doesn’t mean that this will remain so. Over time, and during periods of heavy use, a flat foot over-stretches, and overuses its own ligaments and tendons, resulting in pain and fatigue, and sometimes leading to accumulated permanent damage. A child with flat feet may not initially have pain, but may complain of fatigue in the feet, and sometimes display reluctance to participate in athletic activities. In such a case, the condition will become more symptomatic as an adult, and may lead to foot deformities, and sometimes ankle, knee and low back pain. Flat foot condition can go by many names including pes planus, fallen arches, (over)pronation, and posterior tibial dysfunction.

You’re more likely to have flat feet if the condition runs in your family, and this will show up early in life. However, flat feet can also develop (acquired flatfoot), due to injuries, arthritis, and as a result of other conditions such as obesity or diabetes. While all flat feet look somewhat alike, on the inside, the internal causes can vary significantly. Some feet are simply very flexible (hypermobile), and simply yield to weight and gravity unless supported by shoes or arch support. In other types of flat foot, ligaments or tendons overstretch and eventually tear. Yet another type of flat feet result from excessively tight Achilles tendons. In older adults flat foot results from gradual breakdown and change in shape of bones and joints, resulting in a painful rigid flat foot.

Once identified as the problem, initial treatment consists mostly of arch supports, or custom-made orthotics. More severe cases, may require surgery.