Every move we make involves our feet — standing, sitting, walking, and running. Our feet support all our body weight, so it isn’t surprising that many of us suffer from foot pain or stiffness. But did you know the cause may simply be that you have flat feet?

About 1 in 4 adults have flat feet — a condition that occurs when the arch collapses, causing the entire sole of the foot to come in contact with the ground. Flat feet are treatable with the help of Summit Health podiatrists like Antonia McClune, DPM. She explains more about the causes of flat feet, common symptoms, and the variety of treatments that are available.

Why do flat feet occur? Are you born with them, or do they develop over time? 

According to Dr. McClune, “flat feet can be genetic or develop over time.” Adult-acquired flatfoot is a deformity that occurs over time when the tendon that supports the arch of the foot becomes weakened and causes the arch to collapse.

Another condition that can lead to flatfoot is called tarsal coalition. This condition occurs when two bones are abnormally fused or joined near the heel or back of the foot. Further causes of flatfoot can include obesity, arthritis, age, pregnancy, and foot or ankle injury.


What problems and symptoms are associated with flat feet?

When symptomatic, the most common complaint associated with flat feet is arch or heel pain. Other symptoms you may experience include ankle pain and swelling, shin splints, an abnormal gait, or bunions — a bony bump that usually appears on the big toe.


Does everyone with flat feet experience symptoms or are some individuals not affected?

Dr. McClune explains that most people with flat feet do not experience any symptoms and can do all sorts of activities without any problems. People who are more likely to experience painful symptoms from flat feet include athletes, those who are overweight, people who stand a lot on their feet, and those who wear flat, unsupportive footwear. Individuals tend to seek out treatment when the symptoms become especially painful.


Do children have flat feet?

Flat feet are normal in babies and toddlers because the arches in their feet haven’t yet developed. The foot arch develops throughout childhood for most individuals by age 10. Some individuals, however, will never develop arches in their feet and may need to see a podiatrist for further treatment.


Is there anything you can do to correct flat feet? How can podiatrists at Summit Health help?

Podiatrists or orthopedic specialists can help with both conservative and surgical treatment of flatfoot. To begin treatment, “I always recommend conservative therapies first such as orthotics, supportive footwear, physical therapy, and stretching exercises,” explains Dr. McClune. “If conservative treatments fail to provide long-term relief, there are different surgical options that vary depending on the cause and severity of the flat foot.” Examples of surgeries can range from tendon repairs to joint fusions.


Summit Health can help

Flatfoot is a common problem. If you have pain or other symptoms that you think may be caused by flat feet, schedule an appointment with a podiatrist. They can recommend a treatment plan that will make your feet feel more comfortable during daily activities and exercise.