Ever wondered why some people’s feet seem to have a natural arch, while others leave a complete footprint on the sand? Those with little to no arch have what’s called flat feet, also known medically as pes planus. While it might seem like a minor detail, flat feet can sometimes lead to discomfort and require attention.

Flat Feet: A Common Occurrence

The good news is that flat feet are a very common condition, affecting up to 20% of adults [1]. In most cases, they don’t cause any problems. However, for some people, flat feet can lead to pain, especially in the feet, ankles, and even knees.

Understanding the Arch: Why It Matters

The arch in your foot is a natural curve that helps distribute your weight evenly when you stand and walk. It also acts like a shock absorber, reducing stress on your joints. In flat feet, this arch is flattened or absent, potentially affecting how weight is distributed and how your foot moves.

Flexible vs. Rigid Flat Feet: Knowing the Difference

There are two main types of flat feet:

  • Flexible flat feet: In this type, the arch appears when you’re not putting weight on your foot (like when you’re sitting or standing on tiptoe). However, the arch flattens out when you stand normally. This is often the case for children and might not cause any problems.
  • Rigid flat feet: Here, the arch is collapsed and doesn’t return when you’re not bearing weight. This type is less common and can be more likely to cause pain and discomfort.

Causes of Flat Feet: Beyond Just Fallen Arches

While flat feet can be present at birth (congenital), they can also develop later in life due to:

  • Injury: A broken bone or ligament tear in the foot or ankle can disrupt the structure that supports the arch.
  • Obesity: Excess weight can put extra strain on the arches, causing them to flatten.
  • Aging: Over time, the tendons and ligaments in your feet can weaken, leading to a loss of arch support.

When Flat Feet Become a Bother: Signs to Watch Out For

If your flat feet are causing you pain, don’t ignore it. Here are some signs to watch out for:

  • Pain in your feet, ankles, or even knees
  • Arch pain
  • Fatigue in your legs
  • Difficulty walking or standing for long periods

Flat Feet and You: Treatment Options

If your flat feet are causing you problems, there are treatment options available. These might include:

  • Supportive shoes: Wearing shoes with good arch support can help distribute weight more evenly and reduce pain.
  • Orthotics: Custom-made inserts for your shoes can provide additional support and improve your foot’s alignment.
  • Physical therapy: Exercises can strengthen the muscles in your feet and ankles, improving stability and reducing stress on the arch.

Living Well with Flat Feet

In many cases, flat feet won’t require any treatment and you can live a healthy and active life. However, if you experience pain or discomfort, talk to your doctor. They can assess your individual situation and recommend the best course of action to keep you moving comfortably.

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