The term “flat feet” refers to feet that have no visible arch when weight is placed on them. Having flat feet is very common. Flat feet are often asymptomatic, but when symptoms do arise, they often include pain, tenderness, or cramping in the foot and an overpronated gait or walking pattern.
Babies are born with flat feet, but most will develop an arch within the first few years of life. Sometimes, the arch does not develop, leading to flat feet that last throughout adulthood. In other cases, an arch may develop normally but then flatten over time due to excessive wear and tear, pregnancy, or obesity. Most people with flat feet have flexible flat feet. This means that the feet have a visible arch, but only when they are not bearing weight. Flexible flat feet do not usually cause pain. Rigid flat feet, on the other hand, have no arch regardless of whether or not the feet are bearing any weight. This type of flat foot is more likely to cause symptoms.
If you have flat feet, a podiatrist can help you monitor your foot health and treat any foot or ankle pain that may arise. Wearing over-the-counter or custom orthotics, doing certain foot stretches, and modifying physical activities may help reduce symptoms caused by having flat feet.