Flatfeet | Orthopaedics | Loyola Medicine

Flatfeet

Overview and Facts about Flatfeet

Flatfeet is an orthopaedic condition in which the arches of the feet collapse, allowing the entire sole of the foot to touch the ground. Flatfeet is also known as pes planus or fallen arches. The condition is common, with more than 3 million cases reported each year in the United States.

This condition doesn’t always cause noticeable symptoms. However, some people with flatfeet report chronic foot pain. Flatfeet can also affect the alignment of your legs and could result in pain in the knees or ankles.

Signs and Symptoms of Flatfeet

Flatfeet may cause some of the following symptoms:

  • Foot pain
  • Back pain
  • Leg pain
  • Swollen feet

If you have flatfeet, the soles of your feet may feel tender. Your feet might tire easily, and your feet or ankles might swell from overuse.

Because fallen arches can affect your gait, you might also develop pain in your legs or back. Some movements, such as standing on your toes, could be difficult or painful.

Causes and Risk Factors of Flatfeet

Flatfeet is often caused by damaged or weakened tendons in the heel and arch of the foot. In other cases, the condition may be due to a medical issue that's present from birth. Medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis can also cause flatfeet.

Other risk factors for flatfeet include:

  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Diabetes
  • Nerve disorders
  • Increased age

Tests and Diagnosis of Flatfeet

If your doctor suspects that you have flatfeet, they will perform a physical exam. Your doctor might ask you to perform routine tasks such as walking across a room or standing on your toes.

During the exam, your doctor will examine your leg and foot muscles to check their strength. Your doctor might also look at your shoes to check the wear pattern.

Your medical history can also be helpful for diagnosing flatfeet. Your doctor may ask several questions about past illness or injuries that increase your risk of flatfeet.

A physical exam is often enough to diagnose flatfeet. In some cases, your doctor might order imaging tests, such as an MRI or X-ray, to view the bones in your feet.

Treatment and Care for Flatfeet

If your case of flatfeet doesn’t cause pain or other bothersome symptoms, treatment is not necessary. If you often experience foot pain or swelling, your doctor might recommend using special shoes or arch supports. These devices are placed inside your shoes to help relieve foot pain.

Stretching exercises or physical therapy can also provide relief from symptoms.  Flatfeet may increase your risk of some overuse injuries. A physical therapist can show you how to improve your form while running or walking to minimize your risk of injury.