Flat feet is the term used to describe feet with low or no arches. In this article you’ll learn about what causes flat feet in children & adults, when you should seek professional help, and what treatment options we can offer you.
Children have flat feet from birth until the foot develops, usually between 6-8 years of age. However, after this period not everyone develops an arch. This can be down to genetics and may run in the family such as inheritance from parents. If there is a genetic link, this rarely causes problems.
In many cases of flat feet the feet tend to roll inwards too much during standing and walking which causes flattening of the arches. This may be due to ligament laxity in the foot joints. This is known as pronation. This is a common reason why children have flat feet as they tend to have looser joints than adults. In rare cases the flat foot shape can also be due to the way the foot formed in the womb, where for example, a joint may be malformed or two or more bones may be fused together. Children’s feet in these cases are stiff and flat, and the problem is usually obvious in childhood.
The people referred to above have always had flat feet. However, occasionally a flatfoot develops later in life. This is known as adult acquired flatfoot. This is most often caused by a ruptured or weakened tendon (the tibialis posterior tendon), ligament laxity in adult life, arthritis or an injury causing stiffness and distortion of the joints of the foot. In all these cases there is often pain and limited daily function. Some people with neurological conditions such as spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, or cerebral palsy may develop flatfeet due to muscle weakness secondary to disease of the nervous system. In neurological cases, the feet are stiff and the deformity tends to get worse over time.
You should consult a podiatrist if:
- Your feet cause you a lot of pain when standing or walking
- Your shoes wear out very quickly
- Your foot or feet seem to be getting flatter
- Your feet seem very stiff
- You cannot feel your feet normally, or they seem weak
In many cases, no treatment is needed. This is when there are no symptoms such as pain. If you have pain in your foot, ankle, or lower limbs, it may be due to your flat feet. If you or your child experience pain you should consult a podiatrist for a professional opinion. If your pain is due to your flat feet a podiatrist may prescribe custom made orthotics, which are medical insoles made specific to the needs of the individual. In some cases surgery is required to straighten the feet. If you require surgery your podiatrist will refer you to a podiatric surgeon or orthopaedic surgeon.
Orthotics: Orthotics are an excellent treatment for people with painful flat feet or flat feet that are causing pain elsewhere such as the knees due to poor biomechanical control. Our orthotics are suitable for people of all ages and because they are bespoke to your foot, offer the exact support required to aid your foot’s normal function and relieve the cause of your pain. To assess if orthotics are suitable for you, book in for a Gait Analysis appointment.
Physiotherapy: If your flat feet are caused by muscular tightness, injury, or weakness, you may also see one of our team of Physiotherapists for manual therapy and an individually prescribed exercise programme to help build strength in weak muscles that could be causing your flat feet.
If you suspect you’re suffering from flat feet, we can help. Book your Gait Analysis appointment online> or by calling us on 01380 730473. Appointments are available at any of our clinics in Devizes, Marlborough or Frome