What are flexible flat feet?

Dr. Christopher P. Chiodo, MD
Orthopedic Surgeon

Most children have flexible flat feet, a normal condition in which the arch flattens when pressure is applied but springs back once weight is taken off the foot. The child's arch does not fully develop until about age 10. But as many as one in five people retain flexible flat feet into adulthood, often because of an inherited tendency for loose ligaments and flexible joints. Flexible flat feet are seldom painful. In the rare cases where symptoms do occur, the person may complain of tired, aching feet after standing or walking for extended periods.

Symptoms of flexible flat feet include:

  • An arch that flattens under pressure
  • Aching feet after you stand or walk for a long period

Babies and toddlers do not develop arches in their feet until around the age of 6; the stage of development before that time is called flexible flat feet. This is characterized by the presence of arches when children are sitting or standing on their toes, but the arch disappears when they put weight on their feet.

Babies are born with nearly 100 bones that need to close and grow to create bones and joints. Some of those bones are in the feet, and they make up your foot arch. Walking, standing and other activities strengthen the bones and cartilage to "create" the arch.

Flexible flat feet are normal, and for 80 to 90 percent of children, they’re completely temporary. However, for a smaller portion of the population, arches never develop, which is a condition called pediatric flat feet.

In general, pediatric flat feet are a relatively normal, treatable condition. If you have additional questions, or think your child may have flat feet, talk to a pediatric orthopedic surgeon.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.