What are Flat Feet?

What are Flat Feet?

Flat feet is a condition where the foot’s arch lays flat against the ground when standing. This common foot deformity can be in one or both feet and cause pain and discomfort when walking. 

Flat feet can develop over time or be partially hereditary. Some people with flat feet never experience any issues, while others may develop foot pain or additional problems. Flat feet pain can be treated with nonsurgical or surgical methods.

Collapsed arch vs. flat feet

Everyone has flatter feet when they’re born. The longitudinal arch that runs lengthwise along the sole develops typically between the ages of three and six. But some children’s feet continue to be flat into adulthood.

A progressively collapsed or fallen arch can occur later in life. Adult foot arches can collapse due to an injury or from years of use. Posterior tibial tendon dysfunction, when this specific tendon along the inside of the ankle weakens or tears, is a common cause of collapsed arches in adulthood.

Types of Flat Feet


There are two primary types of flat feet: 

  • Flexible flat feet. Flexible flat feet are a common childhood condition where both feet can have little to no arch. However, the joints are flexible. Ligaments and tendons in the arches and inner ankle can be stretched, torn, or inflamed. Flexible flatfoot can gradually get worse with age. 
  • Rigid flat feet. With rigid flat feet, a person has no arch, and the joints are rigid. Rigid flatfoot generally appears in adulthood and worsens with age and use. The condition can be in one or both feet, cause pain, and restrict foot mobility.

Signs & Symptoms of Flat Feet


Most people with flat feet don’t experience any symptoms. But some flat feet disadvantages include fallen arch pain—discomfort on either side of the ankle or foot arch area.

Flat feet and fallen arches symptoms can include:

  • Pain in the ankle, arch, the inside or outside of the foot
  • Muscle pain, fatigue, or aching in the foot or ankle
  • Leg cramps
  • Pain when walking
  • Changes in how you walk
  • Toe drift, where the front part of the foot and toes point outward

If you have flat feet problems, an orthopedic specialist may be able to provide treatment for your symptoms.

What Causes Flat Feet?


Flat feet are common in children, with around two out of 10 kids maintaining the condition as adults. The primary causes of flat feet include:

  • Genetics. Flat feet can be inherited from a parent.
  • Congenitally tight Achilles tendons or calf muscles can cause the foot to compensate by becoming hypermobile in the arch and, consequently, flattening it
  • Laxity of ligaments. A congenital looseness or hypermobility of the ligaments and muscles can cause flat feet.

Risk Factors

Risk Factors

Some people are born with flat feet, while others can develop the condition over time. Risk factors that may contribute to flat feet include: 

Get Care

Trust NewYork-Presbyterian for Flat Foot Care

If you are experiencing pain or other problems from flat feet, the orthopedic specialists at NewYork-Presbyterian are here to help. Our orthopedists can recommend treatment options and get you back on your feet. 

For concerns about your flat feet, reach out to NewYork-Presbyterian for an appointment with one of our expert orthopedists.