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Is There Any Way to Correct Flat Feet?

By: Kathryn Senior PhD - Updated: 3 Jan 2013 | comments*Discuss
Flat Feet Over Pronation Tendons Shin


I am a 16 year old boy with pretty bad flat feet. I have absolutely no arch, and there is a big lump on the inner side of my foot where all the weight is distributed. I first started getting foot pains at around 10 years old, and I remember feeling pain in my heel. Nowadays, I've been trying out custom made orthotics, but it's still painful after going on runs.

I often get really painful shin splints, and at random moments, I get sharp twinges of pain at the middle of my feet. Is there any way to correct flat feet? I've heard of exercises, but my case seems pretty severe, so I'm not counting on that to work. I've also heard of surgery, but would that be worth it? How effective/reliable would surgery be? And would I still be able to play sports after surgery?

(J.K, 12 May 2009)


The first thing to say is that you are doing extremely well to keep exercising despite it causing so much pain. It is impossible to make a diagnosis of flat feet over the internet but you do sound as thought you have a pretty severe case. Flat feet do often develop in children around the age of 10 and then get worse through adolescence.

You may also have a condition called over pronation – if you look this up on the internet, you will find sites that show you how to tell by making wet footprints on paper. The shape of the footprint gives an indication of how bad the over pronation is.

As you have already discovered, orthotics can help – but have you had yours specially made, or are they ‘off the shelf’. If you haven’t yet invested in some made specifically for you, it may be worth investigating.

Surgery is an option for very bad cases of flat feet that can cause shin splints and pain as yours seem to. You certainly need to see a good physiotherapist or sports injury specialist to find out if you have any chronically inflamed tendons that need to be treated.

There are several surgical techniques, all of which are possible and can have good success rates, but all of which require quite long recovery times. Getting completely back to normal for sports could take as long as a year and the first couple of months would probably be quite painful. One technique is called arthrodesis, which is when one or more bones in the foot are fused together during surgery. Another technique involves remove a bone or a bone spur from the foot to help restore a more normal arch. Bones can also be cut and reshaped for better alignment – look up osteotomy for more information. It is also possible to replace, shorten or lengthen tendons or remove the sheath around a tendon from the foot to the shin to ease jarring and pain.

Finally, there are three relatively new techniques – hyprocure stent, talo-navicular fusion and sub-talar joint fusion. If you look these up on the internet you should find some more detailed information about outcomes.

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