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What Does It Mean If I Have Flat Feet?

What Does It Mean If I Have Flat Feet?

It’s a condition that goes by many names: flat feet, flatfoot, and fallen arches. There are also several different types of flat feet and different ways that you may — or may not — be affected. 

As a podiatrist, Dr. Svetlana Malinsky has diagnosed and treated many cases of flat feet. Sometimes, people have no idea they have the condition, while others may have been plagued most of their lives with muscle pain, pain while walking, or difficulty finding comfortable shoes.

Treatments are available to relieve the problems associated with flat feet. If you have symptoms, it’s a good idea to seek the help of an experienced podiatrist.

Types of flat feet

You had flat feet when you were born. All babies have flat feet. Your arch develops usually around age 6, but about 20% of children don’t develop arches and have flat feet as adults. 

In other cases, the arches develop as they should but collapse at some point, leaving the person with flat feet. You might have just one fallen arch, or the problem could affect both feet. 

You might have flexible flat feet, or you might have rigid flat feet. If, when you’re sitting, you can see an arch in your foot, but it disappears when you stand, you have flexible flat feet. This is the most common form of the condition, and it usually affects both feet — beginning in childhood and getting worse as you get older. 

If you have rigid flat feet, there’s no arch regardless of whether you’re putting weight on your feet. This form of the condition usually begins during adolescence and gets worse with time. It’s often painful, and it can be difficult to flex your feet or move them side to side. 

Adult-acquired flat feet happens when an adult’s arches collapse. It can happen because a tendon that attaches your leg that supports your arch tears or ruptures. It can affect one or both feet.


Depending on the type of flat feet you have as well as how the condition developed, you may not have any symptoms at all. For example, a person with flexible flat feet or who never had an arch may not know that they have flat feet, and it may never present a problem. 

However, tearing a tendon in your leg causes pain and inflammation. And if you have rigid flat feet, you’re more likely to have cramping and pain associated with the condition. You may notice muscle pain or cramping in your legs and feet due to having flat feet. Sometimes, there’s swelling on the inside of the ankle. Heel pain is common. 

You may also have issues with your knees and ankles because flat feet can affect the way your bones are aligned and how they move. You may notice more pain in your feet or ankles during activity. 

Treatment for flat feet

If you don’t have symptoms, you don’t need treatment. But if you’re having pain, there are several ways Dr. Malinsky may be able to help you. 

For immediate pain relief, you may take an over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) and rest your feet. Dr. Malinsky also may suggest certain exercises and stretches that can help over time. 

Supportive devices that may be helpful. Orthotics, braces, or custom-made shoes are a few of the options available for those with pain due to flat feet. 

If you suspect you have flat feet, or if you’re dealing with unexplained pain and swelling in your feet or ankles, schedule an appointment with Dr. Malinsky to receive a diagnosis and personalized treatment plan. 

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