Flat Feet Guide 2024: Causes, Symptoms, and Effective Treatment Options

Discover effective treatment and prevention strategies for flat feet.

What are flat feet?

Flat feet occur when the arches of the foot are less rounded, causing most or all of the soles of the feet to touch the floor when standing. 

While some people with flat feet have no symptoms, this condition can lead to overpronation—or the over-rotation of the ankle inward—resulting in poor alignment of the joints and pain in the ankles, knees, hips, and back.

An important distinction is collapsed arch vs flat feet since these terms tend to be used interchangeably. A collapsed arch, which happens in adults, occurs when the ligament supporting the arch weakens or if there are issues with the posterior tibial tendon. On the flip side, flat feet usually begin in childhood and happen when the arch of the foot doesn’t form correctly.

  • Learn about flat feet including the causes, symptoms and treatment options.

Most Common Causes & Risk Factors for Developing Flat Feet

Flat feet can be caused by various factors and can develop at any age. Understanding the most common causes and risk factors associated with flat foot can provide insights into its development and help individuals take preventive measures. Here are some key factors to consider:

  • Genetics
    Some people are born with a genetic predisposition to have low or no arches. If flat feet run in your family, there’s a higher likelihood of developing this condition.
    Genetics
  • Foot and Ankle Injuries
    Injuries to the foot or ankle can also contribute to the development of flat feet. Trauma, such as fractures or ligament sprains, can affect the structure and stability of the foot, leading to fallen arches.
    Foot and Ankle Injuries
  • Muscle Weakness
    Weakness in the muscles that support the arches of the foot can result in flat feet. The muscles and tendons that help maintain the arches may become lax or stretched, leading to a collapse of the arch structure.
    Muscle Weakness
  • Aging
    As we age, the tissues in our body, including those in the feet, may change. This can result in a loss of elasticity and strength, leading to the flattening of the arches.
    Aging
  • Obesity
    The more the body weighs, the more pressure is placed on the feet. As a result, the feet have to work harder to support the weight of the body which can lead to changes in the structure of the foot, such as a collapsed arch.
    Obesity
  • Pregnancy
    Pregnancy causes hormonal changes and weight gain, which can impact the arches of the feet.
    Pregnancy
  • Certain Medical Conditions
    Some medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and certain neuromuscular disorders, can increase the risk of developing flat feet.
    Certain Medical Conditions

Symptoms & Diagnosis

Symptoms associated with flat feet include arch flattening, foot pain, overpronation, and fatigue, as well as difficulties in finding suitable footwear. Understanding these symptoms can help you identify whether you have flat feet so you can seek appropriate care and treatment. Here are the key indicators of flat feet:

  • Arch Flattening
    One of the primary flat feet symptoms is the flattening or lack of arches in the feet. When standing, the entire sole of the foot makes contact with the ground instead of having an arch in the center.
    Arch Flattening
  • Foot Pain
    Foot pain in arch or along the inner side of the foot is common. This pain can worsen with activities like walking or standing for long periods.
    Foot Pain
  • Overpronation
    Overpronation happens when the foot rolls inward excessively when walking or running. This can lead to misalignment and strain on the ankles, knees, and hips.
    Overpronation
  • Fatigue and Swelling
    People with flat feet may also experience fatigue and swelling in the feet, especially after prolonged periods of standing or physical activity.
    Fatigue and Swelling
  • Difficulty with Footwear
    Individuals may struggle to find shoes that provide adequate support and comfort for their flat arches.
    Difficulty with Footwear
Shop flat feet shoes from KURU today!

Treatment

While many individuals with flat feet experience no pain or complications, others may encounter discomfort, pain, or alignment issues, leading them to seek answers to how to fix flat feet. Fortunately, there are a variety of treatment options available, ranging from conservative methods to surgical interventions. Whether you’re exploring non-invasive remedies or considering surgery, it’s essential to understand the available treatments to make an informed decision. Listed below are the most common and effective options for treating flat feet.

  • Arch Supports/Orthotics
    Custom-made or over-the-counter shoe inserts that support the arch and alleviate pain.
    Arch Supports/Orthotics
  • Supportive Footwear
    Shoes with good support of the sole, arch, and heel.
    Supportive Footwear
  • Stretching Exercises
    A variety of exercises to stretch the plantar fascia, Achilles tendon, and posterior tibial tendon.
    Stretching Exercises
  • Physical Therapy
    Techniques to strengthen foot and leg muscles.
    Physical Therapy
  • Pain Relievers
    Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or naproxen help reduce pain and inflammation.
    Pain Relievers

Exercises and Stretches

Flat feet, while common, can sometimes lead to discomfort or alignment issues in the feet and legs. Incorporating specific exercises and stretches into your routine can help strengthen the foot’s muscles, improve arch support, and alleviate any associated pain. Not only do these exercises target the foot’s arch, but they also promote overall foot health and flexibility. Below are some recommended stretches and exercises for flat feet.

  • Toe Tapping
    While sitting, lift your foot off the ground and tap your toes repeatedly. This strengthens the muscles in the front of your shin.
    Toe Tapping
  • Heel Raises
    Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Slowly raise your heels off the ground, standing on your toes. Lower back down and repeat.
    Heel Raises
  • Arch Lifts
    While seated, place your foot flat on the ground. Try to lift the arch of your foot while keeping your toes and heel on the floor.
    Arch Lifts
  • Achilles Tendon Stretch
    Stand facing a wall with your hands pressed against it. Step one foot back, keeping it flat on the ground, and bend the front knee. You should feel a stretch in the calf of your back leg.
    Achilles Tendon Stretch
  • Towel Stretch
    Sit on the floor with your legs straight. Place a towel around the ball of one foot. Hold both ends of the towel and gently pull it towards you, stretching your foot and calf.
    Towel Stretch
  • Golf Ball Roll
    Sit in a chair and place a golf ball under one foot. Roll the ball around under your foot, applying gentle pressure. This can help massage and stretch the arch.
    Golf Ball Roll
  • Single Leg Balance
    Stand on one foot, lifting the other off the ground. Hold for as long as possible, then switch feet.
    Single Leg Balance
  • Heel-to-Toe Walk
    Walk in a straight line, placing the heel of one foot directly in front of the toes of the other foot with each step.
    Heel-to-Toe Walk

Surgical or Other Procedures

Individuals with flat feet who haven’t found relief through conservative treatments, surgical interventions, or other procedures might be the next step. These methods aim to correct the structural issues of the foot, alleviate flat feet pain, and restore normal function. While they offer promising results, it’s crucial to weigh the benefits against potential risks. Below are some primary surgical and procedural options for treating flat feet.

  • Chiropractic Adjustments
    Manipulation of the foot to improve its alignment.
    Chiropractic Adjustments
  • Acupuncture
    The use of thin needles to stimulate specific points on the foot for pain relief.
    Acupuncture
  • Tendon Transfer
    Re-routing tendons from one side of the foot to the other to correct the foot’s position.
    Tendon Transfer
  • Arthrodesis
    Fusing bones of the foot together.
    Arthrodesis
  • Osteotomy
    Cutting and reshaping bones to correct their alignment.
    Osteotomy
  • Lateral Column Lengthening
    Adding bone or bone-like material to the outside of the foot.
    Lateral Column Lengthening
  • Corticosteroid Injections
    Injections into the painful area to reduce inflammation.
    Corticosteroid Injections

Prevention

While it’s not always possible to prevent flat feet, especially if it’s due to genetic factors, there are measures one can take to reduce the risk or delay its onset. Adopting certain habits, making wise footwear choices, and engaging in specific activities can play a pivotal role in maintaining the health of your feet’s arches. Below are some preventive strategies to consider for promoting optimal foot health.

  • Supportive Shoes
    Always opt for shoes with good arch support and a firm heel counter.
    Supportive Shoes
  • Maintain a Healthy Weight
    Extra weight can put additional strain on the feet, potentially leading to flat feet or exacerbating its symptoms.
    Maintain a Healthy Weight
  • Regular Foot Checks
    Periodically check your feet and your children’s feet for changes in arch development or alignment.
    Regular Foot Checks
  • Limit Prolonged Standing
    If your job requires standing for extended periods, take breaks to sit and elevate your feet.
    Limit Prolonged Standing
  • Regular Foot Exercises
    Incorporate foot-strengthening exercises into your routine to maintain arch health.
    Regular Foot Exercises
  • Avoid Overtraining
    If you’re an athlete or engage in regular physical activity, ensure you’re not overtraining, which can strain the feet.
    Avoid Overtraining

FAQs

  • What causes flat feet?

    Flat feet can be caused by genetic factors, with the condition being inherited from parents to children. Weak arches, evident when sitting but flattening when standing, contribute to the development of flat feet. Other causes include foot or ankle injuries, excess weight stressing the arches, arthritis, damage to the posterior tibial tendon, nervous system or muscle diseases, tarsal coalition causing abnormal foot bone fusion, long-term use weakening the supporting tendon in older age, and tendonitis from overuse.

  • How do I know if I have flat feet?

    There are a few simple tests you can perform at home to get a sense of your arch type. Perhaps the easiest is a footprint test in which you get your foot wet and step onto clean, dry concrete or a piece of kraft paper. Make sure to place all your weight on the surface you step on.

    Analyze the footprint to see how much of your foot shows up. If you have a proper arch, the middle part of your footprint is approximately halfway filled with a distinct curve along the arch. If you have flat feet, your footprint will appear completely filled in without a significant inward curve at the center.

    If you complete the footprint test and it appears that you have flat feet, it’s best to visit a doctor who can perform tests to confirm the condition and determine the severity.

  • Can flat feet be corrected?

    While it is not possible to completely “fix” flat feet in most cases, there are various treatment options available to manage the symptoms and improve foot function. Flat feet are often caused by genetic factors or a natural variation in foot structure, which cannot be permanently altered. However, with appropriate interventions, individuals with flat feet can find relief and improve their quality of life.

    It’s important to consult with a healthcare professional, such as a podiatrist or orthopedic specialist, for a proper diagnosis and personalized treatment plan based on individual needs. With appropriate care and management, individuals with flat feet can lead active and comfortable lives.

  • Is flat foot hereditary?

    Yes, research has shown that genetics do play a significant role in the development of flat feet.

  • Can flat feet cause knee pain?

    Yes, flat feet can cause knee pain due to overpronation. Without proper arch support, the feet tend to roll inward, affecting your gait and leading to extra stress on your knees. Overpronation forces your knees to move inward, which they’re not intended to do.

  • How do you treat flat feet?

    Flat feet treatment addresses associated issues such as foot pain, overpronation, and discomfort. This may involve exercises to strengthen the muscles that support the arch, stretching the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia, wearing supportive footwear with cushioned arch support, and using orthotic inserts or custom-made shoe inserts to provide additional support. In some cases, physical therapy or specialized footwear may be recommended. These interventions can help alleviate symptoms, improve foot mechanics, and enhance overall foot function.

In our study on foot pain across America, 12% of 2,500 survey respondents with foot pain reported having flat feet.

Explore the latest foot pain trends, common causes of pain, treatment and prevention plans for maintained foot health in our 2024 Foot Pain Trends Report!

Features to Look for in Shoes for Flat Feet

Shoes designed for flat feet offer specific features that provide the necessary support, comfort, and stability. When shopping for such shoes, it’s essential to know what to look for to ensure optimal foot health and comfort. Below are key features to consider when selecting the perfect pair.

  • Arch Support
    Look for shoes that provide adequate arch support to compensate for the lack of natural arches of the foot. Opt for shoes with built-in arch support or removable insoles that can be replaced with orthotic inserts for customized support.
    Arch Support
  • Stability and Motion Control
    Choose shoes with features that promote stability and control excessive motion. Look for shoes with firm heel counters, which help prevent overpronation and provide support to the rearfoot. Additionally, shoes with a wider base and a supportive midsole can help reduce instability and improve overall foot alignment.
    Stability and Motion Control
  • Cushioning
    Opt for shoes with cushioned midsoles to absorb shock and provide added comfort. Cushioning helps reduce impact forces during walking or running, alleviating potential discomfort and minimizing the risk of injuries.
    Cushioning
  • Proper Fit
    Ensure the shoes fit well and provide ample room for the toes to move freely. A snug yet comfortable fit is essential to prevent excessive foot movement within the shoe and maintain proper alignment.
    Proper Fit
  • Breathability and Materials
    Look for shoes made from breathable materials to promote airflow and prevent excessive moisture buildup. Breathable shoes can help keep your feet cool, dry, and comfortable throughout the day.
    Breathability and Materials

Caring for Your Shoes for Flat Feet

Shoes designed for flat feet are more than just footwear—they’re an investment in comfort and foot health. Proper care not only extends the life of your shoes but also ensures they continue to provide the necessary support and comfort. Whether it’s cleaning, storage, or odor management, a little attention can go a long way. Below are some tips and best practices to keep your shoes in optimal condition.

  • Regular Cleaning. Wipe down your shoes with a damp cloth after use to remove dirt and debris.
  • Avoid Machine Washing. Most specialized shoes can lose their shape or support when machine-washed.
  • Store in a Cool, Dry Place. This prevents mold growth and material degradation.
  • Avoid Direct Sunlight. Prolonged exposure can fade the color and weaken the shoe material.
  • Use Odor-Eliminating Sprays. These can help keep the shoes smelling fresh.
  • Rotate Your Shoes. Rotating your use of shoes can reduce the wear and tear on any single pair.

Choosing Shoes for Flat Feet

Selecting the right footwear is crucial for those with flat feet, as the right pair can offer relief, support, and even prevent further complications. However, the process involves more than just picking a shoe labeled for flat feet. It’s about understanding your specific needs, knowing what to look for, and ensuring a proper fit. The journey to finding the perfect shoe can be simplified by following some key steps.

  • Consult a Podiatrist
    Before shopping, it’s beneficial to have a professional assess the type of flat feet you have and the severity.
    Consult a Podiatrist
  • Shop in the Evening
    Feet tend to swell as the day progresses. Shopping for shoes in the evening ensures a fit that remains comfortable throughout the day.
    Shop in the Evening
  • Wear Appropriate Socks
    Wear the type of socks you plan to use with the shoes to ensure a proper fit.
    Wear Appropriate Socks
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Heel the Difference™ of KURUSOLE

Every step you take starts with your heels—and it can get painful, fast. In fact, 77% of Americans experience foot pain, with heel pain at the top of the list.*

That’s why at KURU, we believe health starts with heel. Our patented KURUSOLE technology dynamically flexes with each step to hug and protect your heels. This heels-first focus paves the way for holistic foot pain relief and whole-body wellness, so you can live a life you love.

Every pair comes built with three layers of pain-fighting technology:

  • 1

    KURUSOLE

  • 2

    KURUCLOUD

  • 3

    ULTIMATE INSOLE

  • How KURU brings relief

    KURUSOLE

    It’s the world’s first dynamic heel-hugging technology. Our patented KURUSOLE technology dynamically flexes with each step to hug and protect your heels to help alleviate foot pain conditions such as plantar fasciitis.

Our Secret

Animated GIF showing KURUSOLE tech in KURU shoes vs. typical flat interiors for plantar fasciitis pain.
Why Others Love KURU

Why Others Love KURU

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Great for flat feet! I’ve tried other similar sandals but they just never felt right. I’ve had good luck with other shoes from KURU for helping my flat feet. These did not disappoint. They position my feet well and have great cushion to them.

Christian M.

Great for flat feet! Been wearing Kuru’s for 2 years now. I am a dog walker and very active. I walk 4 miles almost every day. I have flat feet and I have to be very careful to keep my hips in alignment because I have scoliosis and my Kuru’s are just perfect! I have to replace them every year which is absolutely fine with me! They are a great price point and I get so much use out them within a year I would replace them more often if I needed to! After about a week my foot molds into the sole of the shoe and the support and feel is amazing! Customer for life. Thank you Kuru!”

AMYBKB

Expectations exceeded! I have very flat feet and planter fasciitis, my feet would hurt so bad after eight hours on them. I did a lot of research and decided to try these, so you could say I was very skeptical. After wearing the Atom for one week, I love these shoes ! My feet feel great after work and I’m going to buy another pair soon. Thank you Kuru Team!”

Ryan E

So pleased. I have flat feet, a bunyon, and need lots of toe room. These shoes hit my foot arch just perfectly and make it possible to do the work I need to without constant foot pain ! Absolutely love them!”

 

Mickey07

Huge Blessing. I have flat feet, and as I have gotten older I have started experiencing major discomfort. I have tried different brands of shoes, and none of them have helped. I saw the ad for Kuru shoes in an online search. They are very comfortable, and the longer I wear them – the better they feel. Thanks so much for a great product. Looking forward to future purchases.”

Preacher1983

Best sneaker ever. I have arthritis in my feet/ankles. Also have flat feet and over pronate which are a big issue with some of the arch support in most shoes. I saw these and thought I would give them a try especially with the wonderful return policy. I’ve had them for 2 weeks and followed the directions about length of wearing each day, etc. They are the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever worn. I now wear them all day completely free of pain. I walk every day and can’t believe how good my feet feel. Absolutely the best and I am so glad I took the chance and bought them. And one thing that really makes these sneakers work for me is the way the heel is made…it’s also supportive and just makes wearing these a real pleasure.”

Patricia S.

Shop KURU shoes for flat feet today!
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