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Flatfoot: Overview

What is flatfoot?

Most babies are born with almost no arch in their feet. Within 2 to 3 years of age, after toddlers have been walking for a while, the arch develops. If the arch does not form fully, or it goes away when standing or bearing weight, this is known as “flatfoot.”

Flatfoot is a condition that occurs when the arch seems to shrink or disappear, making the foot look flat. There are two types of flatfootedness, known as flexible flatfoot and rigid flatfoot.

What is flexible flatfoot?

Flexible flatfoot is a normal variant and usually does not require treatment, nor does it cause pain, disability or other symptoms. Most children eventually outgrow flexible flatfoot without any problems.

What is rigid flatfoot?

Rigid flatfoot is much less common and usually causes other symptoms like pain and disability. Rigid flatfoot often occurs in kids with problems with the bones in their feet.

What causes flatfootedness?

A foot’s arch is dependent on three things: The anatomy of the bones, the muscles and tendons of the foot and the ligaments. Young children’s ligaments are generally loose (known as “ligamentous laxity”) and therefore when they stand, the ligaments cannot support the arch. As children age, however, the ligaments tighten up. By about age 5, most kids with flatfeet will develop a normal arch.

Some children continue to have flat feet throughout life, which is not a cause for concern as long as they are not in pain.

Resources for flatfeet:

American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons

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