What are Fallen Arches?

Niki Foster
Niki Foster

Fallen arches, also called flat feet or pes planus, is a condition in which the entire bottom of the foot touches the ground when a person is standing. A normal foot has an arch between the heel and the ball of the foot. Fallen arches are typically an acquired condition, though flat feet may be present from childhood if the arch never developed in the first place. In some cases, usually those in which the arch never developed, flat feet are not a cause for concern. If they develop in adulthood, however, causing a rigid flat foot, the condition is usually accompanied by pain and can cause serious health issues.

Fallen arches or flat feet refers to a condition where a person's entire foot touches the ground while standing.
Fallen arches or flat feet refers to a condition where a person's entire foot touches the ground while standing.

Rigid fallen arches are usually easy to distinguish from the flexible variety by the pain the cause, but there is a simple test that a person can perform if he is not sure. He should stand on the toes, and if the arch appears, the condition is known as flexible flat foot and is nothing to worry about. There have been Olympic runners with flat feet of this kind. On the other hand, if the foot remains flat on the bottom when the person stands on his toes, the condition is rigid, and the individual should consult a podiatrist. The same is true if a person notices any change in the arches of his feet or if he as foot pain, whether or not this test suggests he has flexible flat feet.

Shoe insoles are one of the most common treatments for fallen arches.
Shoe insoles are one of the most common treatments for fallen arches.

Fallen arches may be caused by a number of causes, including increased elastin during pregnancy, arthritis, injury, excessive stress on the foot, fused bones in the foot, or an extra bone. They may cause not only foot pain, but also pain in the legs, knees, and back and a loss of mobility. The condition is most often treated with orthotics, structures placed in the shoes to support the feet, but this may not be enough for severe cases. Exercises to strengthen and rebuild the arches can also be helpful. Surgery is sometimes the best method of treatment, as it can completely rebuild the arches and has lasting results, but it is quite expensive and considered a last resort.

A podiatrist may recommend the best treatment for fallen arches.
A podiatrist may recommend the best treatment for fallen arches.
Fallen arches, also known as flat feet, can trigger pain in the ankle, leg or hip.
Fallen arches, also known as flat feet, can trigger pain in the ankle, leg or hip.
Niki Foster
Niki Foster

In addition to her role as a wiseGEEK editor, Niki enjoys educating herself about interesting and unusual topics in order to get ideas for her own articles. She is a graduate of UCLA, where she majored in Linguistics and Anthropology.

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Discussion Comments

@stl156 - Although there are Olympic sprinters with flat feet, I know many athletes that have flat feet and are good in their perspective sports that require more skill as opposed to running, but they are not fast whatsoever.

I actually know one guy that has flat feet and runs almost like a penguin to compensate for not being able to run on the balls of his feet in such a way. It is incredibly odd to look at and although not at all painful to him, does hinder his performance on the field because he is not able to run so fast.

What I am wondering is if someone could list some specific people that have had fallen arches, mainly athletes, and list their accomplishments in their perspective sports, so it will give people an idea on what some people can do despite not having arches in their feet?


@JimmyT - One would think that, but in reality it is not a problem for people to have fallen arches if they never had arches in the first place.

Because the arches never developed there are no problems whatsoever for the people having flat feet and they merely adapt to the circumstances without too much hindrance.

I really think too that these people are at an advantage in that they do not ever have to worry about their arches falling and that they can just go on with their lives not having to worry about this problem as well as be able to run at a very high level their entire lives.

@Izzy78 - That is a really sad story, and I have to wonder if it is just impossible for some people to avoid fallen arches even with surgery and the strength exercises.

It is interesting though to think that even Olympic sprinters can have fallen arches. One would think that these athletes would not be able to run as fast or be able to keep up with their world class competition.

My grandpa had fallen arches, and it was a struggle for him to walk when he got older.

At the time the doctor could not explain exactly why his arches had fallen, but they had done so in such a way that he got severe cramping in his foot and it made it very painful for him to walk, forcing him to eventually use a cane.

Unfortunately though, there was no way for him to avoid his fallen arches, because his doctor merely said that extensive surgery was the only option, but it was not a guarantee it would work. This meant that he had to take pain medication all the time for his condition and it was not a pleasant experience.


The most frustrating thing is that I grew up as an active person, playing football, basketball, walking, spinning, etc.

But now I can't do much of anything without feeling pain in my left fallen arch -- frustrating! Of course lack of activity has caused me to put on weight, an then makes the pain worse! I wonder if people who have had the surgery have been able to maintain an active lifestyle?


I'm 38 and knew nothing about this condition until yesterday, so am on the Ibuprofen for now for three days until it clears up, fingers crossed. I coach football, so hope this will not become a hindrance.


I'm 13 and my dance teacher who has fallen arches has told me i have it to but i told my mum and she doesn't seem to be bothered. what shall i do?


I have been told that I could have my fallen arch repaired by surgery. I am "on the fence" concerning this and as to where to go. I am in central Kentucky. Any comments regarding each question?


I'm 53 years old and have fallen arches. i am thinking about having arch surgery. I've seen this type of surgery on the internet and saw some impressive results. Can anyone who had this type of surgery comment on it?


I am presently recovering from arch surgery (as well as achilles tendon surgery). I am hopeful that it will be the cure for me as I have been disabled for about five years.

I had a boot and a brace, neither of which did anything. This surgeon now inserted a small appliance under the arch, which is supposed to lift it and hold it in place. I am still in a cast but when it was changed this week we saw a beautiful arch! I have renewed hope. --rosalyg


I have been told by my doctor that I need to have surgery for my fallen arches. I am very concerned about this type of surgery. I have been told that I will have to be in a cast for three months and then a 'boot'. I have also been told about the risk. Is there anyone else that has had this type of surgery? Any suggestions to help me make my decision?

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