By definition, flat feet lack an arch and are flatter on the bottom. This allows the entire sole to touch the floor while standing. This condition is common, often running in families and usually painless.

Because their arches haven’t developed yet, flat feet are common in babies and toddlers. The foot arch develops through childhood for most individuals. (Though some people may never develop arches in their feet.)

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What are the signs and symptoms of flat feet?

Most children with flat feet have no complaints or symptoms. Some children with flat feet may experience:

  • Foot pain in the heel or arch area
  • Increased foot pain with activity
  • Ankle swelling
  • Tight heel cords

It is important to talk to your child’s doctor if they have foot pain.

What causes flat feet?

There are various causes of flat feet.

In some cases, children are born with a predisposition for flat feet. Some inherit the flat feet from their family or develop it from a genetic condition. Children with joint hyper-mobility are more likely to have flat feet.

Others may develop flat feet over time. Risk factors for developing flat feet include:

  • Obesity
  • Certain health conditions (e.g., diabetes or arthritis)
  • Foot or ankle injuries

How are flat feet diagnosed?

  • Physical exam
  • Imaging if necessary:
    • X-rays
    • EOS imaging
    • Computed tomography (CT) scan
    • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

How are flat feet treated?

In most cases, treatment is not needed following a diagnosis.

If your child experiences pain with their flat feet, non-surgical treatment options may be recommended. Treatments include:

  • Arch supports
  • Supportive shoes
  • Stretching exercises
  • Physical therapy
  • Rest
  • Pain-relief medication (e.g., acetaminophen)

Surgery is only recommended in severe cases if a child has a related foot or leg problem, such as a torn tendon or bone fusion. Doctors at Connecticut Children’s can determine the right plan to treat your child’s flat feet.