A normal arch leaves a footprint similar to the one depicted on the left, while flatfeet typically produces a footprint such as the one pictured on the right.
You have flatfeet when the arches on the inside of your feet are flattened, allowing the entire soles of your feet to touch the floor when you stand up.
A common and usually painless condition, flatfeet can occur when the arches don't develop during childhood. In other cases, flatfeet develop after an injury or from the simple wear-and-tear stresses of age.
Flatfeet can sometimes contribute to problems in your ankles and knees because the condition can alter the alignment of your legs. If you aren't having pain, no treatment is usually necessary for flatfeet.
Most people have no signs or symptoms associated with flatfeet. But some people with flatfeet experience foot pain, particularly in the heel or arch area. Pain may worsen with activity. Swelling along the inside of the ankle can also occur.
When to see a doctor
Talk to your doctor if you or your child has foot pain.
A flat foot is normal in infants and toddlers, because the foot's arch hasn't yet developed. Most people's arches develop throughout childhood, but some people never develop arches. This is a normal variation in foot type, and people without arches may or may not have problems.
Some children have flexible flatfoot, in which the arch is visible when the child is sitting or standing on tiptoes, but disappears when the child stands. Most children outgrow flexible flatfoot without problems.
Arches can also fall over time. Years of wear and tear can weaken the tendon that runs along the inside of your ankle and helps support your arch.
Factors that can increase your risk of flatfeet include:
- Injury to your foot or ankle
- Rheumatoid arthritis
April 24, 2018
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- 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.
- Pes planus/flat foot. In: Wheeless' Textbook of Orthopaedics. http://www.wheelessonline.com/ortho/pes_planus_flat_foot. Accessed May 25, 2015.
- Posterior tibial tendon dysfunction. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00166. Accessed May 25, 2015.
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