Flatfeet in children are often an inherited family trait, but it may be possible to prevent the condition in some cases. Recent research has shown that there are several social or cultural factors that can cause flatfeet. These factors include the following:

  • Obesity/overweight
  • Unnecessary orthopedic treatments
  • Wearing rigid shoes at a young age

In 1992, a study in India of 2300 children aged 4–13 demonstrated a significant difference in the rate of flatfeet among those who wore shoes regularly and those who did not. In this study, wearing inflexible, closed-toe shoes in early childhood was shown to have a negative effect on the normal development of arches. Children who were allowed to go barefoot or who wore light sandals and slippers had a much lower rate of flatfeet.

In 1999, a study in Spain of 1181 children aged 4–13 revealed that the use of orthopedic shoes for treatment of flatfeet in children not only failed to correct the problem, but actually worsened the condition by preventing the normal flexing and arch development of bare or lightly protected feet.

Finally, in 2006, a study of 835 children aged 3–6 showed significant differences in the rate of flatfeet based on weight, with normal-weight children having lower rates of flatfeet than children who were overweight or obese.

Among adults, flatfeet due to injury, disease, or normal aging are not preventable. However, when flatfeet are related to lifestyle factors, such as physical activities, shoe selection, and weight gain, careful attention to these factors may prevent the development of flatfeet.

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

Published: 16 May 2007

Last Modified: 15 Sep 2015