To view the mechanics of your feet, a health care provider will observe your feet from the front and back and ask you to stand on your toes. The provider will test strength in the ankles and locate the main area of your pain. The wear pattern on your shoes also may reveal information about your feet.
Imaging tests that can be helpful in diagnosing the cause of foot pain may include:
- X-rays. A simple X-ray uses a small amount of radiation to produce images of the bones and joints in the feet. It's particularly useful in evaluating alignment and detecting arthritis.
- CT scan. This test takes X-rays of the foot from different angles and provides much more detail than a standard X-ray.
- Ultrasound. Ultrasound may be used when a tendon injury is suspected. Ultrasound 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 bone and soft tissues.
No treatment is necessary for flatfeet if it doesn't cause pain.
For painful flatfeet, a health care provider might suggest:
- Arch supports (orthotic devices). Nonprescription arch supports can help relieve the pain caused by flatfeet. Sometimes custom-designed arch supports that are molded to the contours of the feet are recommended. 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.
- Physical therapy. Flatfeet may contribute to overuse injuries in some runners. A physical therapist can provide exercises to strengthen the muscles and tendons in the feet and guidance to improve gait.
Surgery isn't done solely to correct flatfeet. Surgery may be an option when patients have pain that still limits their activities after they have tried nonsurgical treatments. Surgery can repair the bone and tendon problems that are causing the pain.
Lifestyle and home remedies
If flatfeet causes you minor pain, you might want to try:
- Rest. Avoid activities that aggravate the condition. Participate in low-impact activities — such as walking, biking or swimming — rather than jumping and running activities.
- Arch supports. Arch supports that are available without a prescription might increase your comfort.
- Medications. Pain relievers that are available without a prescription, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and naproxen sodium (Aleve) might help.
- Weight loss. Losing weight can reduce stress on the feet.
Preparing for your appointment
If your feet cause you significant pain, your health care provider may refer you to a doctor specializing in foot disorders, such as an orthopedic surgeon or a podiatrist.
What you can do
Wear your everyday shoes to your appointment so your health care provider 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 health care provider may ask some of the following questions:
- Where exactly does it hurt?
- How would you describe the pain — dull, sharp, burning?
- What makes the pain worse? What makes the pain better?
- Does the type of shoe you wear affect the pain?
- Have you tried arch supports?
- How does the pain affect your life?