Diagnosis

To view the mechanics of your feet, your doctor will observe your feet from the front and back and ask you to stand on your toes. He or she might also look at the wear pattern on your shoes.

Imaging tests

If you're having a lot of pain in your feet, your doctor may order tests such as:

  • X-rays. A simple X-ray uses a small amount of radiation to produce images of the bones and joints in your feet. It's particularly useful in detecting arthritis.
  • CT scan. This test takes X-rays of your foot from different angles and provides much more detail than a standard X-ray.
  • Ultrasound. If your doctor suspects an injured tendon, he or she may request this test, which uses sound waves to produce detailed images of soft tissues within the body.
  • MRI. Using radio waves and a strong magnet, MRIs provide excellent detail of both hard and soft tissues.

Treatment

No treatment is necessary for flatfeet if they don't cause pain.

Therapy

If your flatfeet are painful, your doctor might suggest:

  • Arch supports (orthotic devices). Over-the-counter arch supports may help relieve the pain caused by flatfeet. Or your doctor might suggest custom-designed arch supports, which are molded to the contours of your feet. Arch supports won't cure flatfeet, but they often reduce symptoms.
  • Stretching exercises. Some people with flatfeet also have a shortened Achilles tendon. Exercises to stretch this tendon may help.
  • Supportive shoes. A structurally supportive shoe might be more comfortable than sandals or shoes with minimal support.
  • Physical therapy. Flatfeet may contribute to overuse injuries in some runners. A physical therapist can do a video analysis of how you run to help you improve your form and technique.

Surgery

Surgery isn't done solely to correct flatfeet. However, you might have surgery for an associated problem, such as a tendon tear or rupture.

Lifestyle and home remedies

If your flatfeet cause you minor pain, you might want to try:

  • Rest. Avoid activities that aggravate your condition. Participate in low-impact activities — such as walking, biking or swimming — rather than jumping and running activities.
  • Arch supports. Over-the-counter arch supports might increase your comfort.
  • Medications. Over-the-counter pain relievers might help.
  • Weight loss. Losing weight can reduce stress on your feet.

Preparing for your appointment

If your feet cause you significant pain, your family doctor may refer you to a doctor specializing in foot disorders (podiatrist) or sports medicine.

What you can do

Wear your everyday shoes to your appointment so your doctor can look at the wear patterns on the soles. Before the appointment, you might want to write answers to the following questions:

  • When did you first notice problems with your feet?
  • What other medical problems, if any, do you have?
  • Do your parents or siblings have flatfeet?
  • Have you ever injured your foot or ankle?
  • What medications and supplements do you take regularly?

What to expect from your doctor

Your doctor may ask some of the following questions:

  • Where exactly does it hurt?
  • How would you describe the pain — dull, sharp, burning?
  • Does any specific motion or position ease the pain or worsen it?
  • Does the type of shoe you wear affect the pain?
  • Can you stand on tiptoe on one foot?
  • Have you tried arch supports?
  • How does the pain affect your life?
June 12, 2015
References
  1. Adult (acquired) flatfoot. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00173. Accessed May 25, 2015.
  2. Flexible flatfoot in children. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00046. Accessed May 25, 2015.
  3. Fields KB. Evaluation and diagnosis of common causes of foot pain in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed May 25, 2015.
  4. Chorley J, et al. Clinical features and management in the child or adolescent with foot pain. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed May 25, 2015.
  5. Pes planus/flat foot. In: Wheeless' Textbook of Orthopaedics. http://www.wheelessonline.com/ortho/pes_planus_flat_foot. Accessed May 25, 2015.
  6. Posterior tibial tendon dysfunction. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00166. Accessed May 25, 2015.
  7. Laskowski, ER (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. May 26, 2015.