The short answer to this question is: no. The longer answer is that flat feet aren’t bad, but they can sometimes be painful. Having flat feet, or fallen arches as they are sometimes called, can cause inflammation, foot fatigue, pain in your knees, hips or lower back, shin splints, plantar fasciitis and a number of other symptoms. If having flat feet is causing you discomfort, the good news is there are many ways to lessen or even eliminate that pain.
How do I know if I have flat feet?
You probably already know if you have flat feet. Flat feet don’t have an arch. But if you’re not sure, take a look at your feet with your shoes off (a mirror on the floor will be a great help for this). When you stand, does all or most of the bottom of your foot touch the ground? If so, you likely have flat feet. Or at least a flat foot–not everyone experiences the condition in both feet.
Still not sure? Try the Wet Test. You’ll need a shallow pan, a cookie sheet with sides is a good choice, and a piece of paper larger than your foot, something like a paper shopping bag.
- Set the pan on the floor next to the paper
- Fill the pan with about a quarter inch of water, though there’s no need to be exact.
- Wet the sole of your foot
- Step onto the paper
The illustration below shows the difference between someone who has flat feet and someone who has normal or high arches.
It is also possible to have an arch when you’re seated but for that arch to disappear when your foot is bearing weight. This is called Flexible Flat Foot, and it’s why we recommend looking to see if you have arches while standing or using the Wet Test.
What causes flat feet?
There are many causes for flat feet, ranging from genetics to injury to other health conditions. It’s common to develop flat feet in infancy and have it worsen throughout childhood, but it’s also possible to develop flat feet as an adult.
Some causes for flat feet in children include:
- Inherited – Flat feet are often hereditary, and the condition is passed down from the child’s parents or grandparents.
- Lax ligaments – Ligaments that are genetically loose or that become so through injury can also cause flat feet.
- Tight Achilles tendon – Tightness in this tendon can make it impossible for a child’s foot to arch properly.
- Lack of exercise – If a child’s feet aren’t getting enough of a workout, this can also cause their arches to fall.
In adults, the causes for flat feet increase and can also include:
- Fusing of the tarsal (rearfoot) joints
- Injured tendons or bone fractures
- Medical conditions like arthritis, diabetes or Marfan syndrome and other connective tissue disorders
- Overuse & strain
Get more information on flat foot causes, symptoms and treatment.
Can flat feet be cured?
Yes and no. For many patients, treatment can completely alleviate symptoms. And for cases where injury or damage has occurred, if that can be reversed, often so can the resulting flat feet. Treatment for flat feet can range from exercises to rebuild the arch of the foot, insoles to make walking and standing more comfortable, all the way to surgery. Ultimately, your podiatrist should be focused on reducing pain and treating flat feet in the least invasive way that does so.
If your flat feet are causing you pain, reach out to a podiatrist! They can diagnose what’s causing your fallen arches and get you on the path to pain-free feet. Book an appointment today!