Are My Feet Flat?
This is a question podiatrists get asked a lot.
Many people are really concerned that their feet are flat and that it will cause them all manner of problems.
The Armed Forces famously used to knock back applicants for having flat feet. Yes, they used to, but even that has changed these days.
This whole question needs a bit of unpacking because it’s not so straightforward.
Yes flat feet CAN cause you a lot of issues with your ankles, legs, knees, hips, and back, BUT a lot of the time won’t.
Also, what you think are flat feet will likely pale in comparison to really flat feet.
What I Will Cover
In this post I will cover the following:
- What are flat feet?
- Will flat feet cause you pain?
- Will flat feet prevent you from being an active, healthy person?
- What treatments are available if flat feet are causing pain and holding you back?
- What can you do each day to prevent the negative effects of flat feet?
What are Flat Feet?
So what are Flat Feet.
True or profoundly flat feet are feet which have no noticeable arch.
If you look at the foot to the right, it has absolutely no arch. The part of the foot which is normally the highest part of the arch is actually weight bearing.
These feet nearly always cause pain, not only in the feet themselves, but also in the ankles, knees, hips, lower back, and in some cases even the upper back.
The middle of the foot which would normally be the highest point of the arch, sits on the floor.
Many people who have feet that pronate, or in laic terms “roll in,” are told that their feet are flat. But in reality they may have low arches, but still arches, not flat feet.
Only a small part of the population have true pes planus or flat feet.
Pronation of the Foot.
Over the years athletes and the general public have become much more aware of human anatomy, physiology, and biomechanics or the study of human movement.
Pronation describes a complex movement of the foot involving all three planes of movement and mainly the sub-talar joint which sits just below the ankle joint ( it everts in the frontal plane, abducts in the transverse plane and, dorsiflexes in the sagittal plane).
Pronation is a very normal and necessary part of human movement that serves to both shock absorb and relax the foot, in preparation for the propulsive phase of gait when the foot starts to supinate (the reverse of pronation).
You may often notice that many sprinters appear to have very flat feet, but their bodies are very good at going from pronation to supination to pronation throughout gait to propel them down the track.
So, almost all of us pronate, and all of us should!
Will Flat Feet Cause Me Pain?
My very short answer is: probably.
If you have truly flat feet where the arch is on the floor, you will almost certainly suffer from some form of foot, ankle, leg, knee, hip or back pain.
My friend who owns the feet above does suffer pain and is not able to walk anywhere without his shoes an orthotics.
The good news is that his custom foot orthotics reduce the pain significantly and he is able to live a very full life which is awesome for him and his family. (to find out more about custom foot orthotics click here to read my blog on them).
Will Flat Feet Prevent Me from Living a Happy Active Life.
No. Our mission is to allow everyone to enjoy their favourite activities pain free.
Whether you have true flat feet or feet that pronate enough to cause you pain in joints and legs from the lower back down, we’re here for you.
When these problems arise and are contributed to by your rolling in (pronating) feet, the podiatrists at Dynamic Podiatry really shine!
We have vast experience and the best technology to ensure that we get the right diagnosis and allow us to work out the aetiology (contributing factors) of your pain.
Then we work out a solution incorporating your footwear, your daily activities and any goals you have in life and work out a solution to getting you active and pain free.
This may involve stretching or strengthening exercises (you can check out our exercises on Youtube here), strapping, padding, footwear advice and custom orthotics.
To learn more about custom foot orthotics see our blog here.
How Can I Prevent Pain from Flat Feet?
There are a couple of very simple things that you can do everyday to prevent painful side effects of having flat or low arched feet.
1. Stretch Your Calves
One of the major contributing factors in flat feet is tight calf muscles. The triceps surae muscles are made up of a medial and lateral gastrocnemius muscles which are the main bulk that you can see in calves, and the lower Soleus muscle.
This complex of muscles should be stretched everyday, even by people who don’t have flat feet or pain!
In the video to the right podiatrist, Laura demonstrates one method for stretching your calf muscles.
The traditional method of lunging forwards with your back foot pointing forwards and with your heel on the floor is also an option.
These exercises should be held in position, don’t bounce or move fast into position.
2. Use a Foot Roller
Another thing you can do everyday is to roll each foot over a little rubber ball, handballs are a great option and can be bought for $2-$5 at many sports stores.
This exercise stretches out the important intrinsic muscle of your feet which work very hard to keep you moving and often need a little tender loving care. (To read more about the intrinsic muscles click here).
3. Wear Good Footwear
My third tip for avoiding pain with flat feet is footwear.
Your feet should have a small (10-25mm) heel like the lift in most trainers. This small heel makes sure that the Achilles and plantar fascia are not in a very extended position and placing undue pressure on them.
Trainers are the best, but most people can’t wear them to work, make sure that the shoes you do wear to work have enough room for your toes, have a small heel and are reasonably firm in the upper and cushioned in the sole.
We're Here To Help You
The information here is general in nature and may not be appropriate for everyone.
To get an expert opinion from one of our very experienced podiatrists call 3351 8878 or book online at by clicking here.