Flat feet are a laymen term used to describe the lowering of the medial arch of the foot (inside long arch). Lowering of the long arch occurs when the major joints of the foot pronate (roll in) excessively as shown in the picture to the right.
'Flat feet' are generally due to a genetic predisposition. The ligaments, tendons and structure of your feet determines whether you have flat feet or not. In some instances however flat feet can be due caused by other reasons; such as surgery, weakening of the tibialis posterior muscle over a long period of time, arthropathy.
Flat feet do not always mean pain with weight bearing activities. There are a lot of people that do not have pain associated with thier flat feet. Unfortuntely, most people with flat feet develop some kind of problem depending on how much they are using their feet. An marathon runner for example may have issues with his/her flat feet because they are using thier feet excessively, where as a person who prefers to be at home and does not do any exercise may not have any issues. Common problems associated with flat feet are: lower back pain, anterior knee pain, hip pain, shin splints, bunions among many other conditions.
If you have a problem and you think it may be related to your foot posture, see your GP or Podiatrist to address the problem. A podiatrist can determine normal from too much pronation by going through a biomechanical assessment.
Orthotics: are specially made shoe insoles (not over the counter) which support your foot and address the problems you are having. Custom made orthotics are only prescribed to you if you really need them. A thorough biomechanical examination by your podiatrist will help determine this. Exercises: to help strengthen your muscles around the foot and lower leg to reduce the chance on an over-use injury Footwear: is an important part of addressing flat feet. Without proper shoes, your foot may not recieve enough support. Footwear becomes especially important if you are wanting to keep active and exercise regularly. We can recommend footwear for you depending on what you examination reveals. Surgery: very rarely do you require surgical intervention for flat feet. Surgical intervention for flat feet is complex and carries risk of various complications so in often not recommended, unless there is a serious bony injury or under lying medical condition.