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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Flat feet

Waewae papatahi

Flat feet show a flat sole and a curve in your ankle when viewed from behind. Normal feet below show an arched sole and a straight ankle when viewed from behindIf you have flat feet, the arches in your feet are lower, and disappear completely when you're standing. This can cause ankle, knee and low back pain.

Flat feet are also called pes planus. Having fallen arches as a result of excessive moving is also called pronation (exaggerated rolling in of your feet when walking).

A flatter foot in children aged up to 10 years will often improve without any significant treatment. A podiatrist can assess their feet and monitor them as they grow. They can also suggest treatment options if they're needed.

If your child begins to walk oddly or clumsily (for example, on the outer edges of their feet) or complains about calf or muscle pains around their feet, you should see your general practice team or podiatrist to get their feet assessed.

Causes of flat feet

For most people, having flat feet is caused by genetics – it runs in their family.

You may also have extra bones in your feet, and that makes them flat.

Flat feet can be the natural position you were born with or caused by an injury, such as a broken bone, dislocation or sprain, or by a disease such as diabetes or arthritis. Being overweight can also lead to flat feet.

Symptoms of flat feet

The usual symptoms of flat feet are:

Treating flat feet

Making sure you have supportive footwear, especially for activities such as running, can help to prevent the symptoms of flat feet. You may need to see a podiatrist to get orthotic inserts for your shoes.

It's also important to stay a healthy weight, as excess weight puts strain on the ligaments, muscles and joints of your feet.

You should see a podiatrist if you have any pain from your flat feet. A podiatrist can examine your feet and look at how you walk or run. They can then give you advice on appropriate footwear and lower leg and foot exercises. They may prescribe medical orthotic inserts for your shoes. In some cases, they may recommend surgery.

You can find a podiatrist by searching on Podiatry NZ's website.

Written by Podiatry NZ. Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed April 2023.


Page reference: 225563

Review key: HICCA-28239