Schedule Same-Day Appointment Online or Walk-In Today.
Skip to main content

Why Is It Concerning to Have Flat Feet?

Humans are bipedal, having evolved over the millenia to walk and run effectively on the ground while upright. To do so, humans developed arches in their feet, which aren’t characteristic of other primates.

At Chicagoland Foot and Ankle, our team of experienced podiatrists loves to see perfectly formed arches, but the reality is that not everyone has them. 

Particularly troubling are people who have flat feet (also known as fallen arches), as their feet can’t perform their function well enough to protect against pain and injury.

The function of foot arches

The human foot has two longitudinal (medial and lateral) and two transverse (anterior and posterior) arches, all of which are formed by the shapes of the metatarsals (long bones of the foot) and the tarsals (small bones that include bones of the ankle, heel, and arch), together with ligaments and tendons.

The arches make the sole of the foot concave so your footprint is incomplete when you put your weight on the foot, though the arches flatten somewhat. When you raise the foot, the arches revert to their normal contour. These arches are present from birth but are masked by a fat pad in children.

Tendons connect bone to bone, and several tendons in the foot and lower leg work together to form the foot arches. 

When all the tendons pull the proper amount, your foot forms a moderate, normal arch. When they don’t work together properly, there’s little to no arch. This condition is called flat feet.

Many young children have what are known as flexible flat feet. When they stand, their feet look completely flat. But when they rise to their toes, a slight arch appears. In most cases, the arches develop as the child ages.

The fully formed arches in adults provide the feet with the stiffness they require to act as a lever, as well as transmitting the forces generated by leg muscles into the feet as they push against the ground. 

Though mostly rigid, the arches retain enough flexibility to act like a spring, storing then releasing mechanical energy so you can walk, run, and jump.

The trouble with flat feet

Flat feet in adults may also be termed fallen arches, as the natural arch present earlier in life disappears, or falls flat. This can arise from a range of problems:

Many people with flat feet don’t have any symptoms and require no treatment. If you do get symptoms, though, you may experience:

Adult-onset flat feet can also lead to podiatric complications like plantar fasciitis, tendinitis, and arthritis. 

If you notice any of these symptoms, it's time to come into Chicagoland Foot and Ankle for an evaluation.

Treating flat feet

If your flat feet are producing symptoms, you can start by resting your feet and icing them to reduce pain and swelling, and using over-the-counter anti-inflammatories. 

We may also prescribe stretching exercises and/or physical therapy, or injected medications like corticosteroids to reduce inflammation.

A change of footwear to shoes with a roomy toe box that provide enough arch and heel support can also be of benefit.

In addition, we may recommend orthotics. These devices slip into your shoes and provide cushioning, arch support, and heel support. They also decrease repetitive stress on your ligaments and tendons, preventing injury.

Do you have flat feet and don’t know what to do about it? Contact Chicagoland Foot and Ankle today to schedule an evaluation. We have offices in the Mount Greenwood and Portage Park areas of Chicago, as well as Orland Park and New Lenox, Illinois.

You Might Also Enjoy...

5 Foot Problems Orthotics Can Help Treat

You may be familiar with over-the-counter shoe inserts, but they pale in comparison to prescription orthotics, which are customized for your feet. Keep reading to learn about them and five problems they can help treat.