What is flatfoot?
Flatfoot (pes planus) is a
condition in which the longitudinal arch in the foot, which runs lengthwise
along the sole of the foot, has not developed normally and is lowered or
flattened out. One foot or both feet may be affected.
What causes flatfoot?
Flatfoot may be an inherited
condition or may be caused by an injury or condition such as
Who is affected by flatfoot?
Children as well as
adults may be flat-footed. Most children are flat-footed until they are between
the ages of 3 and 5 when their longitudinal arch develops normally.
What are the symptoms?
People who have flat feet
rarely have symptoms or problems. Some people may have pain because of:
- Changes in work
- Minor injury.
- Sudden weight
- Excessive standing, walking, jumping, or
- Poorly fitted footwear.
Children sometimes have foot discomfort and leg aches
associated with flat-footedness.
How is it treated?
Treatment in adults generally
consists of wearing spacious, comfortable shoes with good arch support. Your
doctor may recommend padding for the heel (heel cup) or orthotic
shoe devices, which are molded pieces of rubber, leather, metal, plastic, or
other synthetic material that are inserted into a shoe. They balance the foot
in a neutral position and cushion the foot from excessive pounding.
For children, treatment using corrective shoes or inserts is rarely
needed, as the arch usually develops normally by age 5.
is rarely needed.
You may be able to relieve heel pain by
stretching tight calf muscles. See a picture a
calf stretch exercise.
- Stand about
1 ft (30 cm) from a wall and
place the palms of both hands against the wall at chest level.
- Step back with one foot, keeping that leg
straight at the knee, and both feet flat on the floor. Your feet should point
directly at the wall or slightly in toward the center of your body. Keep the
knee of the leg nearest the wall centered over the ankle.
- Bend your
other (front) leg at the knee, and press the wall with both hands until you
feel a gentle stretch on your back leg (calf muscle).
- Hold for a
count of 10 (increasing the count to 30 or longer as you continue over several
weeks). Switch legs and repeat. Do this 2 to 4 times a day.
Foot-strengthening exercises done with a towel and
weights. See a picture of a
towel curl exercise.
- Place a towel on the floor, and sit down in a
chair in front of it with both feet resting flat on the towel at one
- Grip the towel with the toes of one foot (keep your heel on
the floor and use your other foot to anchor the towel). Curl your toes to pull
the towel toward you.
- Repeat with the other foot. To increase
strength, later use
3 lb (1.5 kg) to
5 lb (2.5 kg) weights (such as
a large can of fruit or vegetables) on the other end of the towel.
Calf-stretching exercises done with a towel. See a
picture of a
towel stretch exercise.
- Sit down on the floor or a mat with your feet
stretched out in front of you.
- Roll up a towel lengthwise and then
loop it over one foot (around the ball of your foot).
- Take one end
of the towel in either hand and gently pull the towel towards your body to
stretch the front of your foot. Repeat with the other foot.
Some people—especially competitive athletes, people who
want to return to a heavy sports program, or people who are highly
motivated—may choose more intensive strengthening and flexibility programs. A
physical therapist or trainer can help supervise a program recommended by your
sports medicine specialist or a foot specialist, such as an orthopedist or
nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), heat,
or massage may help with foot pain and leg discomfort. If flatfoot is related
to another condition, surgery or other treatment may be needed.
Toe, Foot, and Ankle Problems, Noninjury