The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Look Out! Falling Arches!

Posted by on Monday, April 9th, 2012


“Tabletops, floors, 2 dimensional worlds, tires, and feet. And the question is…?”

“That’s ‘What are things that are flat?'”

Congratulations, you’re a Jeopardy! savant. But how well do you know the wonderful world of flat feet? Let’s talk falling arches and all that comes with them.

So flat feet means…your feet are flat, right? Yes, clever friend, it does! A foot typically has an arch between the ball of the foot and the heel. Like the arch of a building, one of the great architectural developments of all time, the arch of a foot helps distribute our comparatively large amount of body weight across our comparatively small feet and legs. When a person has flat feet, that strength and balance is diminished.

How do you get flat feet? Some are born with flat feet. Others have flat feet thrust upon them.

Actually all are born with flat feet; look at a baby’s foot. As we walk and begin to develop, though, the arch forms–in most people. Some people have a natural tendency towards flat feet; in fact, this is thought to be hereditary.

More common, though, are people who have an arch that falls and flattens over time. Some people have an in-between condition, weak arches, which are arches that are there when there’s no weight on the feet, but flatten out when they stand. Others have the whole flat foot shebang. This is caused by:

  • Time–you’ve been putting a lot of wear on your feet over the years, and eventually they give.
  • Pregnancy–the stress of the additional weight from pregnancy can flatten out feet.
  • Muscle diseases (cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, spina bifica)–these conditions can weaken the muscles that form the arch.
  • Injury–a traumatic injury to your foot can damage the muscles, causing the arch to fall.

Rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and obesity can also lead to flat feet.

How do I know I have flat feet? You’ll notice pain in your feet, especially when you’re walking or standing for a long period of time. If standing in line suddenly is about as much fun for your feet as doing your taxes is for your brain, then you may have flat feet. You may also have pain in other areas of your body–the knee, the calf, the lower back–as your body, now having lost some of its ability to stand well, tries to compensate in other weird, injurious ways.

If you suspect your feet are flat, you can do the “wet foot” test: wet your feet, then stand on a perfectly flat surface that will leave a footprint (a piece of paper, a tile floor). Step away and look at the footprint you left–if you can see most of the center section of your foot, then you have flat feet; conversely, if you have high arches, little of the center section will be marked.

To be 100% sure about whether your feet have gone flat, see a podiatrist at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine (212.996.1900). Podiatrists can analyze your feet by the way you walk and stand; they may also do x-rays or an MRI to see if there is a specific underlying cause.

Why should I care about flat feet? I like an aggressive, full-figured footprint. When you have flat feet, you will tend to roll in on your ankles, or overpronate. This can lead to a whole host of injuries–plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, shin splints, hammertoes, bunions, and ankle, knee, and back problems, as your body tries to adjust to the overpronation.

How do I deal with this? Should I see a plastic surgeon to get an arch job? No! See a podiatrist at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine (212.996.1900). If the pain is severe, you may also be a candidate for a corticosteroid injection to bring down the swelling. Icing and anti-inflammatories can also help with pain.

Longer term solutions may include a program of strengthening exercises that will help stabilize the area weakened by your flat feet. You may also need to switch to shoes that offer more support if you’re currently getting by on support-less shoes like flip-flops. If you’re a runner, look for shoes that will help correct your overpronation. Orthotics, or inserts that you put into your shoes, can take some of the pressure off your flattened soles and will also lessen the overpronating.

In extreme cases, a podiatrist may need to perform surgery to repair severely damaged bones or tendons that are causing your arches to fall.

Flat feet may be a pain in the, well, foot, but you don’t have to suffer because of it. contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine to ask the questions that will help get you started. Dr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, and Dr. Ryan Minara have helped thousands of people get back on their feet.



If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.