What Causes Flat Feet?


Everyone has foot pain from time to time, especially if you’ve spent a day standing or participating in certain sports. But if you have chronically achy feet, you might have flat feet, a condition also known as flatfoot that affects about 25% of Americans.

At Gelbmann Podiatry, we understand how debilitating chronic foot pain can be. David Gelbmann, DPM, and Ramsha Ali Tanwir, DPM, make it easy to get the care you need to relieve uncomfortable symptoms and enjoy pain-free movement again.

Here’s why flatfoot happens and how to tell if it’s the cause of your foot pain.

Flat feet in a nutshell

Imagine a line from your big toe to your heel. Just about in the center of that line is where your arch is located. Normally, your arch curves upward. But in people with flatfoot, the arch is flat.

There are two types of flat feet: flexible and rigid. In flexible flatfoot, the arch appears curved when you’re not putting any weight on your foot but flattens when you stand or put pressure on your foot. In rigid flatfoot, the arch is always flat.

The arch has strong ligaments that help support the foot. When you’re born, your feet don’t have arches. Typically, arches develop during the toddler years, but some people never develop arches.

Children and adults who’ve never had arches usually don’t feel any symptoms from their flat feet. But people who develop rigid flatfoot later in life tend to experience a lot of discomfort during routine activities. Many people have aches and pains in their feet even when resting.

Adult flatfoot can develop for different reasons, including:

  • Arthritis in the foot joints
  • Fractures in the small bones of the foot
  • Stretched or torn tendons
  • Injury to the foot
  • Overuse, including long periods of standing every day
  • Obesity

Some people have a genetic condition, hereditary foot shape, or way of walking (gait) that can cause flat feet or increase the chances of developing the condition.

Treating flat feet

Typically, we treat flat feet when they cause painful symptoms. Our first step is to evaluate your feet to determine the extent of the problem and identify possible causes.

Your evaluation includes an exam of your foot, as well as an evaluation of your symptoms when standing and walking. Depending on your symptoms, we may order imaging tests to rule out other foot problems so your treatment can be targeted to your needs.

Once we diagnose flatfoot, your treatment might include:

  • Custom orthotics to provide arch support
  • Foot exercises
  • Physical therapy
  • A change in footwear
  • Other lifestyle changes

In very severe cases where these options don’t provide relief, we may recommend surgery to reconstruct your arch.

Don’t ignore foot pain

Left untreated, flat feet can cause more than foot pain. Over time, the condition can lead to arthritis and pain in your legs and back. The good news is that with a little attention from a skilled podiatrist, you can relieve your pain and start enjoying your activities again.

You depend on your feet, so give them the care they deserve to stay healthy. If you’re experiencing any type of foot discomfort, call us or use our online tool to request an appointment. We have offices in the Near Southside and West Town neighborhoods of Chicago.

Get In Touch

Gelbmann Podiatry

Wednesday: 1:00 PM - 7:00 PM
Friday: 8:00 AM - 1:00 PM
Saturday: 7:30 AM - 1:00 PM

Monday: 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Tuesday: 1:00 PM - 6:00 PM
Thursday: 8:00 AM - 1:00 PM

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