8 Things You Might Not Know about Flat Feet
There are a lot of rumors and misconceptions out there about flat feet. Here are some questions we hear all the time:
- How did I get them?
- How can I tell if I have them?
- How bad are they really?
- Do flat feet always need surgery?
Flat Feet Are Way More Common Than You Might ThinkEstimates for flat foot prevalence can vary widely, since most people with the condition do not necessarily seek treatment unless their feet hurt (and sometimes not even then, unfortunately). However, most experts think that somewhere between 20 to 30 percent of the adult population has flat feet, or at least low arches. That’s anywhere from 1 in 5 to almost 1 in 3! So you are almost certainly not as alone as you think.
Some People Are Born with ThemActually, almost all people are born with flat feet! The majority of kids do not have well-formed, permanent arches until the early years of grade school. Their feet may appear flat all the time, or flatten only when they are bearing weight (flexible flatfoot). However, for some kids, a permanent arch of normal height never really forms. They simply grow up with flat feet, unless a podiatrist or orthopedist takes steps to correct it. Except in rare circumstances, flat feet in childhood is a matter of genetic inheritance rather than any specific injury or exterior condition.
Other People Develop Flat Feet Over TimeArches can also flatten over time. Many middle-aged and older adults develop “adult-acquired” flatfoot later in life. Most of the time, the primary cause is weakening and stretching of the posterior tibial tendon, which is the main supporting tendon for the arch. This could be the result of a specific injury, overuse from physical activities and hobbies, or just accumulated daily wear and tear. People who are overweight or obese are more likely to develop flat feet as well.
You Can Estimate Your Arch Type at Home Using the “Wet Test”Now, if your arch is flat as a pancake, you might not need to test it—the answer is obvious! However, most people aren’t especially familiar with what the “ideal” arch is supposed to look like, exactly, and whether their arches are lower than normal, higher than normal, or “just right.” Although there’s no substitute for a professional evaluation, you can get a good idea of your arch type by performing the “wet test” at home:
- Fill a flat, shallow pan with justenough water to fully cover the bottom.
- Take a step in that pain with your bare foot.
- Step onto a flat surface that will show a clear, bold footprint—like a paper grocery bag or piece of construction paper—and stand normally.
- Back off and look at the print you’ve made.