I have flat feet, do I need orthotics ?

by Rhys Potter – Podiatrist Healthy Life Foot Clinic 


If you have been living on planet earth any time during the past 100 years you have probably heard from a friend or family member that “flat feet cause issues”, or “Oh no you have really flat feet, thats bad”. 


If you’re reading this and have flat feet don’t worry you are certainly not alone and there is no reason to panic. It is more common than you may think, studies show approximately 30% of the population have a flat feet!


Here I will describe what it is to have a flat feet, if and when anything needs to be done about it and the best way to avoid complications in the future. 


A ‘flat foot’ is typically used to describe a foot that has very little to no arch development through the instep of the foot. The rearfoot or heel bone will typically point outwards for someone with a flat foot type, completing the picture of what we call a ‘pes planus’ (flat foot) or ‘pronated’ foot type. 


Flattening out of the arch in walking / running also called ‘pronating’ is actually a very important function of the foot that we want to see because this allows the foot to absorb shock. However in some instances when a foot spends too much time in this flat position and is absorbing more force than it has to, the plantar fascia and or muscles of the foot and lower leg can become overworked and this can cause pain or injury. 


Interestingly when a foot structure is too far the other way with a really high arch the foot becomes very rigid and shock absorbance is lessened because they wont ‘pronate’ or flatten out through the arch at all. This foot type can cause it’s own concerns over time.  


In saying that it is important to know that there is no perfect arch height that has been discovered in research, a foot that functions well for someone may look and act very different than it does for somebody else. It is all relative to the individual. You may have flat feet and never encounter any concerns, pain or tightness in your life. Who is to say that your flat feet aren’t the perfect feet for you ? 


If you do have flat feet and don’t have any pain or foot symptoms typically podiatrists will not recommend orthotics.  However there are still exercises such as stretching and strengthening of the lower leg and foot muscles that will help lessen the likelihood of developing a foot injury in the future. 


The other thing that is also important is wearing supportive footwear as much as possible. Some shoes offer very little to no structural support for the feet and it is more common for foot pains and aches to develop in less supportive shoes. A podiatrist can recommend the right shoe for you taking into consideration work, comfort and of course fashion. They can also put in place a injury prevention exercise program, for this you would need to book an appointment. 


Now if you do have flat feet and unfortunately do experience pain or fatigue in either the feet or lower legs there is much more that we can do. 


Orthotics are proven to be successful in reducing foot pain and are a lot of the time an excellent treatment that lessens pain and hence improves quality of life. Orthotics will support the arch and rearfoot, placing it in a position where less force will be placed on any injured or painful spots you may have on your feet and or lower leg. For the right orthotic prescription an appointment with one of our Podiatrists is needed. Orthotics are never provided as a stand alone treatment – we always assess your current footwear, provide strengthening and stretching exercises and any other manual therapies (foot mobilisation, dry needling/acupuncture, cold laser/low level laser therapy) that may be required to get you back pain free.


If you do have foot pain or are worried about your foot posture, to know what treatment is best for you and to know whether or not you need orthotics an appointment with one of our Podiatrists is your best option. We will assess your foot posture, explain why you may be experiencing pain and put in place both a short and long term plan that will get you back to living a pain free, happy and healthy life! If you have any concerns regards you having flat feet, have a child with flat feet or experiencing foot pain, CLICK HERE to make an appointment.

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