Most children and adults with flatfeet do not need to see a physician for diagnosis or treatment. However, it is a good idea to see a doctor if:

  • the feet tire easily or are painful after standing;
  • it is difficult to move the foot around or stand on the toes;
  • the foot aches, especially in the heel or arch, and there is swelling on the inner side of the foot;
  • the pain interferes with activity; or
  • the person has been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.

Most flatfeet are diagnosed during physical examination. During the exam, the foot may be made wet and the patient asked to stand on a piece of paper. An outline of the entire foot will indicate a flattened arch. Also, when looking at the feet from behind, the ankle and heel may appear to lean inward (pronation). The patient may be asked to walk so the doctor can see how much the arch flattens during walking.

The doctor may also examine the patient's shoes for signs of uneven wear, ask questions about a family history of flatfeet, and inquire about known neurological or muscular diseases.

Imaging tests may be used to help in the diagnosis. If there is pain or the arch does not appear when the foot is flexed, x-rays are taken to determine the cause. If tarsal coalition is suspected, computed tomography (CT scan) may be performed, and if an injury to the tendons is suspected, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI scan) may be performed.

Publication Review By: Hai-En Peng, D.P.M.

Published: 16 May 2007

Last Modified: 15 Sep 2015