flat feet

Flat feet, sometimes referred to as adult flat feet or flatfoot, are painful and progressive deformities affecting the arch of the foot.

According to William Saar, DO, an orthopaedic surgeon specializing in foot and ankle conditions, flat feet result from the tearing and deterioration of the soft tissues in the arch. Repeated wear causes the arch to flatten and the toes to point outward. Learn more about the risk factors, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.

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Risk Factors and Causes of Flat Feet

Flat feet, or a lack of an arch, are normal among children and toddlers because some arches take longer to develop. In fact, some people never develop an arch and may or may not experience difficulties as a result. These flat feet are known as congenital flat feet, and no treatment is typically needed.

In other cases, however, the causes of flat feet range from pre-existing medical conditions. This includes the deterioration of tendons that support the arch, arthritis, diabetic foot disease, injuries, or even the wear and tear of aging.

Dr. Saar says any adult over the age of 50 who notices that one foot is getting flatter than the other should seek care from an orthopaedic foot and ankle specialist. Earlier treatment can avoid more extensive surgery in the future.

Flat Feet Symptoms

Flat feet often develop over time and involve symptoms that progress and may contribute to related conditions. Some patients with flat feet report no physical pain or changes. Others may experience a wide variety of symptoms, including:

  • Pain.
  • Swelling.
  • Difficulty walking or bearing weight on the feet.
  • Inability to lift the heels off the ground while attempting to rise onto the toes.
  • Bumps on the side of the feet.

Treatment for Flat Feet

Treatment options for flat feet include:

  • Rest or avoidance of high-impact, repetitive, weight-bearing activities (i.e. running).
  • Anti-inflammatory pain medications.
  • Orthotics.
  • Braces.
  • Surgery.

Nonsurgical treatment options like shoe modifications, rest, and medications can be very effective in managing pain and preserving both function and mobility in your feet.

Surgery for Flat Feet

In some cases, when conservative methods are not successful, surgery may be recommended. These surgical options include:

  • Osteotomy.
  • Lateral column lengthening.
  • Tendon reconstruction.
  • Arthrodesis.

Following any sort of surgical treatment for flat feet, you will have to eliminate all weight-bearing activities for a period of two to three months. This rest period can prevent further difficulties and potential complications.

Whether you have a new injury or symptoms that include chronic foot, ankle, or heel pain, swelling, or limited movement, the foot and ankle experts at UPMC Orthopaedic Care  can offer comprehensive treatment options to help you find relief. Visit our foot and ankle services page for more information, or call 1-866-987-6784 to schedule an appointment.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .

About UPMC Orthopaedic Care

When you are dealing with bone, muscle, or joint pain, it can affect your daily life. UPMC Orthopaedic Care can help. As a national leader in advanced orthopaedic care, we diagnose and treat a full range of musculoskeletal disorders, from the acute and chronic to the common and complex. We provide access to UPMC’s vast network of support services for both surgical and nonsurgical treatments and a full continuum of care. Our multidisciplinary team of experts will work with you to develop the treatment plan that works best for you. Our care team uses the most innovative tools and techniques to provide better outcomes. We also are leaders in research and clinical trials, striving to find better ways to provide our patients care. With locations throughout our communities, you can find a provider near you.