Most cases of flatfeet do not require treatment. However, if there is pain, or if the condition is caused by something other than normal development, there are several treatment options. Self-care options include rest, choosing non-weight-bearing exercise (e.g., swimming, cycling), weight loss, and avoiding high heels.

Flexible flatfeet with some pain can be relieved with the use of orthotics—shoe inserts that support the arch—and/or heel wedges (in some cases). If pronation is a factor, special shoes can be worn that lift the arch and correct the inward leaning. Physical therapy may also be prescribed to stretch or lengthen the heel cord and other tendons.

For rigid or inflexible flatfeet, treatment varies depending on the cause. Tarsal coalition if often treated with rest and the wearing of a cast. If this is ineffective, surgery can be done to separate the bones or to reset the bones into a correct position.

If the flatfoot is caused by an injury to the tendons in the foot or ankle, rest, anti-inflammatory medications (e.g., ibuprofen), and the use of shoe inserts and ankle braces often relieve symptoms. In severe cases, surgery is performed to repair the tendon or to fuse some joints in the foot into a corrected position to reduce stress on the tendon.

The prognosis after surgery is generally good. Complications include pain and some loss of ankle motion, especially when trying to turn the foot in or out. This may be improved with physical therapy.

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

Published: 16 May 2007

Last Modified: 15 Sep 2015