Flat feetOverview

Flat feet, or "fallen arches", are where your feet press flat on the ground. They're common and usually nothing to worry about.

Check if you have flat feet

To see if you have flat feet, check the inner sides of your feet while you're standing up.

Flat feet don't usually need to be treated

You don't need to do anything if you or your child have flat feet that aren't causing any problems.

Flat feet:

  • don't usually cause any problems
  • shouldn't stop you doing any activities, including sports
  • are rarely a sign of anything serious

In children, flat feet usually last until they're about 6 years of age.

See a GP if you have flat feet and:

  • your feet are painful, stiff, weak or numb
  • you often get feet or ankle injuries
  • you have problems with walking or balance
  • you didn't have flat feet before
  • it only affects 1 foot

These problems mean you might need treatment.

Treatments for flat feet

If you need treatment, your GP may refer you to a specialist like a podiatrist or physiotherapist.

Referral to a specialist isn't available everywhere and waiting times can be long.

Your GP might be able to give you advice about paying to see a specialist privately.

A foot specialist can offer advice about:

  • what shoes to wear (wide, comfortable shoes with a low heel are usually best)
  • shoe insoles to support your feet
  • foot stretches and exercises
  • painkillers

These won't change the shape of your feet, but can help with things like pain or stiffness.

Surgery for flat feet

Surgery is rarely needed for flat feet.

It might help if there's a problem with the bones, tissues or muscles in your feet and other treatments haven't worked.

Your GP may refer you to a surgeon if they think surgery might help.

Causes of flat feet

Often there's no obvious cause for flat feet. It might just be the way your feet are.

Sometimes flat feet run in families.

Rarely, they may be caused by:

  • the bones in the feet not growing properly in the womb
  • stretching of the tissues in your feet (possibly as a result of things like an injury, getting older or being overweight)
  • conditions affecting the muscles, nerves or joints in the whole body

Page last reviewed: 17/09/2018
Next review due: 17/09/2021