Flat feet are a common and usually painless foot condition. Typically, feet have an arch shape. The sole of the foot curves up behind the toes and curves back down into the bottom of the heel. Having flat feet means that the sole of your foot doesn’t arch. Instead, the entire sole touches the ground when you stand.
Many people don’t have problems due to their flat feet. Other people find that flat feet affect how they stand and move. Their feet can lead to stress on other body parts. If the shape of your feet causes pain in your feet, knees, hips, or back, you may need treatment. Picking the right shoes can help prevent problems from flat feet.
Causes of Flat Feet
Flat feet can be something you have your whole life. Some people never develop a distinct arch in their feet. Children have flatter feet than adults and may outgrow flat feet.
Other people find that their feet grow flatter over time. General wear and tear on bones and joints can lead to flat feet in adulthood. Other risk factors for developing flat feet include:
Most experts agree that wearing shoes with a supportive sole is best for flat feet. Look for a shoe with a firm but cushioned insole to support the surface of your foot. The sole of the shoe should be flexible but not floppy. It should move with your foot and provide support while you walk or stand.
Look for shoes that have extra support in the middle of the sole. A raised arch support can take pressure off the middle of your foot. This can help align your foot correctly so you don’t twist your ankles, knees, or hips as you move.
Flip flops or sandals that don’t wrap around your heel are a no-no for flat feet. These are too loose and don’t provide the kind of supportive soles you need for flat feet. You want shoes that enclose your heel so that the sole of the shoe and your foot move together. Look for shoes that come up high enough in the back to keep your heel in contact with the sole of the shoe at all times.
Shoes with a slightly raised heel take pressure off your mid-sole and relieve foot pain. The heel height doesn’t need to be dramatic. A heel of an inch or two can be sufficient to help with flat foot pain. Look for raised heels in dress shoes as well as athletic shoes with a thicker heel sole.
Shoes with laces or velcro straps allow you to customize the way the upper part of the shoe fits around your foot. You can adjust the lacing to accommodate the width of different parts of your foot so you get even support. Giving your foot the right amount of room inside the shoe allows you to evenly distribute your weight on your sole.
By making sure your upper foot is snugly supported in the shoes, you can keep the sole firmly in place. Your foot will stay in contact with the supportive bottom of your shoe rather than sliding or lifting inside the shoe. This can help you correct gait issues you might develop when you’re trying to hold a looser shoe in place.
If you can’t find shoes that cushion your feet well, you may need custom orthotic inserts. Your doctor will take a look at your feet and analyze how you walk to see how your feet are affecting the rest of your body. Over time, the orthotics may help you develop an arch. Your doctor will prescribe orthotics to provide support exactly where you need it.
Other Treatments for Flat Feet
If shoes and orthotics don’t solve your pain from flat feet, you may need physical therapy. A physical therapist can teach you exercises to strengthen your feet and legs. This may take pressure off your feet and improve discomfort.
In rare cases, doctors recommend foot surgery. Usually, this is only done if you have problems in addition to flat feet. For example, if you have an injured tendon in your foot or ankle, surgery to repair that might also help with issues due to flat feet.