With flat feet being linked to an increased likelihood of developing foot problems, today1 our podiatrists here at Merivale Podiatry are sharing what you should know about having flat feet.
First: Is Having Flat Feet A Bad Thing?
No, despite what you may have heard, having flat feet is not intrinsically a bad thing. It also doesn't mean that you’re definitely going to develop foot pain or other problems at any stage of life. It’s just like how having bigger or smaller teeth or fingers is neither good nor bad - it is just how our bodies are, most likely for genetic reasons. When it comes to flat feet, however, what is true is that this foot type can increase your risk of developing foot pain and problems.
When you have flat feet, your muscles, ligaments and tissues that support your feet have to work harder as your feet roll down closer to the ground. The harder your body works, the more likely you are to experience overuse pain or an overuse injury, especially when you work harder step after step, day after day. Overuse can then lead to pain and fatigue, and ultimately, injury.
On the other end of the spectrum, having feet that have higher arches may also bring with them their own set or injury risks and vulnerabilities. While we wouldn’t classify having flat feet as a bad thing on their own, when flat feet are paired with foot pain, then yes, they may need to be managed and cared for in order to stop the pain and let the injury heal.
Why Are My Feet Flat?
Firstly, it’s not because of anything you did (or didn’t do) in your early years. It’s likely that your flat feet are related to your genetics, which influence the shape and structure of the bones in your feet, your ligaments and tissues, and other factors that all work together to determine whether you have a flat foot, a neutral (average) foot, or a high-arched foot.
With this said, flat feet aren’t always genetic. They may also be linked to conditions like Ehlers Danlos syndrome, or if they develop in adulthood, may be linked to problems like arthritis, posterior tibial tendon dysfunction or Charcot foot. If you’re pregnant, your feet may temporarily flatten due to a hormone called relaxin circulating through your system, which loosens connective tissues in preparation for childbirth.
Is There A Link Between My Foot Or Leg Pain And My Flat Feet?
There could be, yes. But that can feel a little like asking whether your stomach ache is from the lunch you ate, or whether your headache is because you spent all day watching movies. Could it be the cause? Sure. Could it be just one part of the problem but there are other bigger factors involved? Also yes. Could it be completely unrelated? Yes again.
As identifying the cause of foot pain is integral to having the right treatment, there shouldn’t be any guesswork as to whether your flat feet are involved or not. An assessment with your podiatrist will quickly reveal the likely causes of your pain or injury, including whether flat feet are likely to have played a role. This way, you’ll know exactly what’s going on and why, and how your treatment plan will work in regards to having flat feet.
Can Flat Feet Be Treated?
Yes! And also no. While no treatment can give you natural arches where you didn’t have any previously, we absolutely have therapies available, such as custom foot orthotics, that will do a great job of supporting your flat feet and keeping them in an ‘arched’ position. Using therapies like this (alongside others) means that your feet and arches will stop being ‘overused’ with every step, so any injuries or pains can heal. Continuing to wear these orthotics after you’re pain-free also means that your feet maintain an arched shape whenever you’re in them, so you can help prevent the same injury, and other pains, from recurring in the future.
Are Flat Feet In Kids Normal?
If your child is aged below seven years, then in most cases, yes their flat feet are likely to be normal. When your child is first born, their feet will have a big fat pad and no strong, defined foot muscles yet - so don’t worry about whether an arch is forming until your child is at least a couple of years old. While kids are growing and their feet and legs are developing, they go through a lot of changes - you may notice your child go through periods of in-toeing, out-toeing, toe-walking - and even having slightly knocked knees or bowed legs. It’s all part of the growth and development process as things change and they become more confident and stable on their feet. After the age of seven, we do expect that if an arch is going to form then it will have developed - and if it hasn’t, then they may just have a naturally flatter foot posture.
Worried About Having Flat Feet?
There’s no need to be. Where flat feet are causing pain and problems, having your feet treated by your podiatrist can help relieve the pain and manage any problems. If you’re not currently experiencing any foot pain but know you have flat feet, you shouldn’t worry, either. There is no guarantee that you will develop foot pain, and if you do, it can be managed - just get in touch if any pain or discomfort begins.