Flatfoot (pes planus) is a condition where the foot lacks an arch, meaning the entire sole touches the ground when standing. This condition is usually painless and rarely poses any serious health risks, and it normally forms in childhood if the arches of the feet do not develop. Aging and certain physical injuries can also lead to flatfeet. One or both feet may be affected.
Flatfeet are normal in infants and toddlers, as foot arches don’t start developing until ages five or six. Some people never develop arches, which is a relatively normal foot variation and isn’t widely considered a health risk.
Flatfeet can also be the result of foot injury or diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, strokes, or diabetes that affect bone growth and blood flow.
Treatment isn’t necessary for flatfoot if there’s no accompanying pain. If walking, running, or standing puts painful pressure on your feet, however, you should speak to your doctor. Treatment methods for painful flatfeet include:
- Orthotic devices: Over-the-counter or custom-designed arch supports can reduce pressure and alleviate pain. This method will not cure flatfeet, but it will help with symptoms.
- Stretching exercises: People with flatfeet tend to have shorter Achilles tendons, and stretching exercises can help keep this ligament flexible.
- Proper footwear: Supportive shoes with thick soles are ideal for people with flatfeet.
- Rest: Avoid activities that put undue strain on your feet or aggravate the pain.
- Medications: Over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen can provide relief.
- Weight loss: Getting in shape can reduce the amount of pressure being put on your feet on a daily basis.