Flat Feet (Adult/Child)


When a person stands barefooted, the instep is the inside part of the foot that forms a natural arch while the rest of their foot remains flat to the floor. Although the height of a person’s instep will vary, most people have a noticeable space or arch. Many patients who suffer from flat feet (fallen arches) have almost no curvature and the bottom of their feet tend to roll inward leading to an uneven distribution of their body weight. This unnatural strain on the muscles, tendons and ligaments can cause recurrent foot pain.

Adult flat feet that develop later in life can also result from a variety of medical conditions to include:

  • foot joint injuries
  • osteoarthritis
  • ruptured tibial tendon
  • cerebral palsy
  • spina bifida
  • muscular dystrophy
  • obesity
  • shoes with poor support

Treatment options for flat feet will vary based on the severity and cause. Non-surgical approaches may include foot orthotics, supportive shoes, calf stretching exercises or leg braces which are typically used to treat neurologic-related conditions.

NOTE: Flat feet can also be caused by a congenital defect (tarsal coalition) where two or more bones are fused together. This often leads to a severe lack of foot flexibility that may require surgical intervention.

Flat Feet in Children

In such cases, the child’s foot may have acceptable flexibility allowing them to grow up with normal adult arches. Children with no symptoms and only a mild flatfoot deformity usually do not require any type of treatment.

Generally speaking, if a child still has a flatfoot deformity at age two or three, it is important to have a foot specialist (podiatrist) examine the biomechanics while their foot is still mostly cartilage. If symptoms are moderate to severe, the podiatrist may recommend interventions, such as foot orthotics, supportive shoes, calf stretching exercises, leg braces or corrective surgery.

Surgery for Adult & Pediatric Flat Feet

Unless the flatfoot deformity is severe or arthritis is suspect, non-surgical alternatives such as medications, supportive shoes or orthotics are preferred. When conditions cannot be controlled, flat foot surgery may be indicated to include:

  • posterior tibial tendon repair
  • tendon transfers
  • bone realignment (osteotomy)
  • bone fusion (arthrodesis)

Since infants have chubby feet with less-defined bony structure, it can be very difficult to evaluate whether they are at risk for foot problems.

If you or a child suffer with flatfoot deformity or recurrent foot pain, you can request an appointment online or call Coastal Podiatry & Wound Care at (904) 265-0470 to learn more about adult or pediatric diagnosis and treatments.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided on this website is an educational resource. It is not intended to serve as a recommendation for the treatment or management of any medical condition. All decisions involving medical procedures or surgery should be made in conjunction with your physician or orthopedic surgeon.

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