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What is flatfoot?

Flatfoot is common in children younger than 6 years. The arch of the foot usually develops by 10 years, but you may still have flatfoot as an adult. Flatfoot may be flexible or rigid. Flexible means you have an arch when your foot is relaxed but not when you are standing. Rigid means your foot does not have an arch even when it is relaxed.

Foot Anatomy

What are the signs and symptoms of flatfoot?

  • The soles of your feet are flat on the floor when you stand
  • Your toes or heels point out as you walk
  • A tight Achilles tendon causes your heels to lift off the ground as you walk
  • Foot problems such as a bunion
  • Pain in your heel or arch that is worse when you move your foot
  • Pain in your back, shin, hip, or knee
  • Swelling on the inside part of your ankle

What increases my risk for flatfoot?

  • A family history of flatfoot
  • An injury to your foot, ankle, or heel
  • Obesity
  • A disease such as rheumatoid arthritis or diabetes

How is flatfoot diagnosed and treated?

Your healthcare provider will examine your feet and legs. He will ask about your symptoms and when they began. He will ask if you had flatfoot as a child. Tell him if you had a recent foot or leg injury. He may have you stand with your feet on the floor, then on tiptoes. He may also watch you walk to see how your feet are lined up. X-ray pictures may show how severe the flatfoot is and help guide treatment if needed. Treatment may only be needed if you have symptoms such as pain:

  • A physical therapist can teach you how to prevent overuse of muscles and tendons in your legs and feet. He can also teach you exercises to stretch tight tendons in your heel. The stretches may be the only treatment you need.
  • Surgery may be needed if other treatments do not work. You may need to have a bone or tendon problem repaired. Your ankle may be made more stable, or your Achilles tendon may be made longer. Bones may be fused (joined) or separated.

What can I do to manage flatfoot?

  • NSAID medicine such as ibuprofen can help relieve pain and swelling. Ask your healthcare provider how much medicine to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney damage if not taken correctly. If you take blood thinning medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you.
  • Rest your feet if you have pain. Avoid activities that make your symptoms worse. For some causes of flatfoot, your healthcare provider may recommend a cast or splint for a short time. This will completely rest your feet.
  • Orthotics may be helpful if you have foot pain. An orthotic is a device made of plastic that slips into your shoe. They support the arch as you walk. Orthotics will not cure flatfoot. They will only help relieve pain and help you walk more easily. Talk to your healthcare provider about the kind of orthotics that are best for you. You might want to choose a style that is soft. Hard orthotics may increase your pain.
  • Weight loss may help relieve your symptoms if you are overweight. A healthy weight can also prevent flatfoot. Ask your healthcare provider how much you should weigh. He can help you create a healthy weight loss plan if you are overweight.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have new or worsening symptoms.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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