What is flatfoot?


Flatfoot in children: Overview

A flatfoot means that the bottom of the foot does not have the usual arch. Most children are flat-footed until they are between the ages of 3 and 5, when their arch develops normally. If your child's feet are flat after that time, it may mean that your child has inherited flatfeet. Having an injury, being very overweight, or having a condition such as rheumatoid arthritis or diabetes also can cause the arch to flatten. One or both of your child's feet may be flat.

Flatfoot usually is not a serious problem. But some people do have pain if they gain weight or stand a lot. Your child also can have pain when walking or running. Your child can do exercises and wear pads and roomy shoes to help support their feet.

What are the symptoms of flatfoot?

People who have flat feet rarely have symptoms or problems. Some people may have pain because of:

  • Changes in work environment.
  • Minor injury.
  • Sudden weight gain.
  • Excessive standing, walking, jumping, or running.
  • Poorly fitted footwear.

Children sometimes have foot discomfort and leg aches associated with flat-footedness.

How is flatfoot treated?

For adults, wearing comfortable shoes with arch support can help treat foot pain. Your doctor may suggest heel padding or orthotic shoe devices. Children's arches usually develop normally by age 6, so they rarely need treatment. Stretching exercises can relieve heel pain. Your doctor may recommend NSAIDs, heat, or massage.

How is flatfoot diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask questions about your health and do a physical exam. They will look at your feet and may assess how you stand or walk. Imaging tests such as X-rays may be done.

How can you care for yourself when you have flatfoot?

  • Wear shoes with good arch support and lots of room in the toes.
  • Put heel padding (called a heel cup) or inserts (called orthotics) in your shoes to raise the heel. Orthotics are molded pieces of rubber, leather, or other material that can help cushion and balance your feet.
  • Try these exercises to stretch your feet and make them stronger, if your doctor says it's okay.
    • Stretch your calf muscles. Stand about 1 foot from a wall, and place the palms of both hands against the wall at chest level. Step back with one foot. Keep that leg straight at the knee, and keep both feet flat on the floor. Your feet should point at the wall or slightly toward the center of your body. Bend your front leg at the knee, and press the wall with both hands until you feel a gentle stretch in your back leg. Hold for at least 15 seconds. Increase to 30 seconds over time. Switch legs and repeat. Do this 2 to 4 times a day.
    • Stretch your feet. Sit on the floor or a mat with your feet stretched in front of you. Roll up a towel lengthwise and loop it around the ball of one foot. Hold one end of the towel in each hand and gently pull the towel toward your body. Hold for at least 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat with the other foot. Do this 2 to 4 times a day.
    • Make your feet stronger. Place a towel on the floor. Sit in a chair in front of the towel with both feet flat on the towel at one end. Grip the towel with the toes of one foot while keeping the heel of that foot on the floor. (Use your other foot to anchor the towel). Curl your toes to pull the towel toward you. Repeat with the other foot. Do this 2 to 4 times a day.
  • Take anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve) to reduce pain if your feet or legs hurt. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Try heat or massage on the area that is causing you pain. Use a heating pad set on low or a warm cloth. Put a thin cloth between the heating pad and your skin.

What causes flatfoot?

Flatfoot may be an inherited condition or may be caused by an injury or condition such as rheumatoid arthritis, stroke, or diabetes.

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.

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.

Flatfoot in children: When to call

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your child has pain in the feet or legs.
  • You want help to find orthotics to fit your child's feet.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.